Meeting Yo-Yo Ma!!!

February 12, 2007 at 08:52 PM · I am so excited - this past week I was able to buy tickets for a Yo-Yo Ma concert here in Albuquerque in May. The tickets I bought include a private reception with him after the concert.

Now, technically, I bought the tickets as a graduation present for my daughter, who plays the cello and is also a huge Yo-Yo Ma fan (poster of him and the Strad on the bedroom wall - right next to Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom). But, the tickets are a surprise and we are not going to tell her until the invitation for the reception comes about 2 weeks before the concert.

I have never been to any sort of event like this and I am hoping that maybe someone out here who has been can give me some idea of what to expect. There were only 100 tickets available for the reception and it is being held in a private home in the historic district in town.

Everyone I have talked to has said that Mr. Ma is just a wonderfully nice person and he will not leave until he has talked to everyone at the reception. They also said he loves to talk to young cello students. But, is it it cool to ask for a picture or an autograph? Should my daughter bring a picture to be signed and if so where can we get one without breaking copyright laws (printing off the computer)?

My daughter is only 14 and this is going to be a huge event for her, but I don't want to commit any social faux pas here.

Thanks in advance for any advice you may have!


Replies (43)

February 12, 2007 at 09:14 PM · He is the sweetest guy. It is absolutely cool to ask for a photo and autograph.

He will be flattered since he is a very humble person.

February 12, 2007 at 09:16 PM · Social faux pas? Yo-Yo is salt of the Earth. 'Nuff said.

February 12, 2007 at 09:30 PM · Don't spill anything on him. Otherwise you should be fine.

February 12, 2007 at 09:32 PM · Pour beer on him. He'll just slap you on the back and laugh.

February 12, 2007 at 09:32 PM · Suggest that he start at trio that includes Anne Sophie Mutter and Emmanual Ax (Ax-Ma-Mutter) and call it the Lizzie Bordon Trio. He'll either love it or call security; either will make for a memorable meeting.

February 12, 2007 at 09:26 PM · Autograph ideas:

Her poster of him.

The poster advertisement for the concert(sometimes you can get 'nice' copies of these from whatever institution is holding the concert). This would make a nice memento for framing after the concert.

Some piece of music is she currently working on.

My personal favorite- something she's looking forward to playing "someday" - for inspiration (her favorite concerto or the Bach Cello Suites - unless of course she's already playing them ;o) ). This not only acknowledges that she's a fan (like the poster or photograph ideas) but is also something special for her as a musician.

How cool of you to do this for her! (I envy both of you)

February 12, 2007 at 09:46 PM · This question cracks me up.

February 12, 2007 at 10:58 PM · Bilbo, why does it crack you up? I was serious. I don't post here often, but I read here a lot and I value the opinions of the people on the board. I expected (and even enjoy) a fair amount of jesting, but I didn't think the question itself was funny. I was just wondering what usually happens at these kinds of events and what I can expect for my daughter. I want her to get the most out of it that she can.

Tom, you were joking about the drink thing, but last year my daughter spilled orange soda on an Air Force general (my husband's boss). So I think she should be empty-handed when she talks to him. Just to be on the safe side.


February 12, 2007 at 11:00 PM · Let's see...if it was my daughter I'd say think up the questions you want answered about cello and music because this is your chance to get them answered.

February 12, 2007 at 11:05 PM ·

February 12, 2007 at 11:10 PM ·

February 12, 2007 at 11:13 PM · Wasn't trying to come across as an obsessed fan - no need for a restraining order or anything. Just not used to meeting celebrities and wanted to make sure we didn't overstep the limits.

February 12, 2007 at 11:13 PM · Jim - Whay do I keep seeing responses from you and then when I answer them they diasppear? The "star-struck" message. The "people are people" message.

February 12, 2007 at 11:29 PM · Bilbo thought it was funny because you're asking hooligans for etiquette advice. If I was there I'd probably light firecrackers.

YOUR messages are the ones that disappear...and change too. I don't know what I'm going to be answering:D

February 12, 2007 at 11:48 PM · That's becuase I would post a response, but then it didn't make any sense because your messages weren't there anymore. So I took them off. I'll stop changing them if you will. Deal?? :-)

February 12, 2007 at 11:55 PM · Autograph is totally fine!, CD is better ::wink::...

Rehearse with her what questions she is going to ask -- limit to two., whatever, and a follow up. He might ask questions and she can be as cute as she wants.

I think musicians enjoy everything about a meet and greet -- especially the awesomely famous ones.

Hold back, but be yourself.

February 13, 2007 at 12:23 AM · This doesn't directly answer your question, but I flubbed my only time meeting Mr. Ma as well, and I survived. :) He was rehearsing a new work with MIT composer/professor John Harbison, and my music class was invited to attend. We happened to be walking into the room at the same time, and he stopped to let me in first, smiled broadly, and said, "Hi!" I was so star-struck that my jaw-dropped and out came a sound resembling a strangled cat.

I've since had many experiences meeting famous musicians and I'm sure they encounter this kind of dopeyness all the time from fans. :) Since it's a private reception and not a formal CD signing, it's probably fine to ask for an autograph and/or picture, but you can judge yourself when the moment arrives. See how he's acting around other people and whether he seems rushed or overly tired. If not, go for it! Good luck!

February 13, 2007 at 01:48 AM · I have met many many fine and famous musicians. By far most of them are fine musicians because they are also fine people.

By all means ask for an autograph.

Be respecful and polite. Ask anything you like about playing or performing. That is why he is there.

And have fun! You and your daughter are very fortunate.

February 13, 2007 at 02:07 AM · I think that this was a more than reasonable question and deserved decent answers. Except for one comment I think the answers were right on target.

February 13, 2007 at 06:04 AM · Ask him if it's okay for you to taste his cello.

February 13, 2007 at 06:11 AM · Liz's idea for having him autograph one of her her favorite pieces, or a future "goal" piece signed is a GREAT idea! What an inspiration and memory that would be!

February 13, 2007 at 01:47 PM · My experience with celebs (I played a concert with Ivry Gitlis with David Stern conducting, other famous people too but not like Gitlis =) is that they are way more humble and down-to-earth than most average musicians. They are totally used to questions, autographs, and taking pictures with fans. It's what they do and they usually enjoy it...

February 13, 2007 at 06:22 PM · Here's my suggestion:

DON'T ask for advice (in which case you're asking for a free lesson).

DON'T tell him how great he is (He knows that already, and anyway a lot of famous performers hate to be buttered up).

DON'T name drop.

DON'T tell him all about yourself (He probably meets a million musicians and music students a week).

DO talk about the music. For example, "That Beethoven sonata is just so beautiful." Hopefully, his response might open up a discussion to something else, but talking about the music is a much more comfortable way to start a conversation, and it's probably what someone in his position would rather talk about anyway.


February 13, 2007 at 06:35 PM · try not to be nervous and end up addressing him as YO MA MA.

February 14, 2007 at 06:52 AM · Thanks, guys, so much for the advice - the serious and the tongue-in-cheek. I really appreciate it and I have no problem in admitting that I am a bit star-struck. I don't know how I am going to be able to wait 3 months to tell my daughter about the tickets

February 14, 2007 at 07:02 AM · Al - that made me laugh. We call him that sometimes(jokingly, of couse).

A couple of years ago we were listening to one of his CDs and my daughter turned to me and asked me what his real name was. She thought Yo-Yo was a nick name.

February 14, 2007 at 06:58 AM · Thanks Sander - That is good solid advice. Guess I'd better study up on the program for the evening. :) Especially since I can't name drop all of the famouse people I know, like...ummmmm, absolutely no one.

February 14, 2007 at 12:04 PM · cindy, as you may know already, yo-yo in chinese means ...friend-friend, pretty appropriate for his good nature. but his music career is no western yo-yo and defies gravity.

February 15, 2007 at 07:59 PM · Maybe you could ask him if he's had a chance to sightsee in your city or area, and if he hasn't, suggest sights to him that he may not know about ie. local restaurants, tourist attractions, and 'local approved' spots in town the tourists tend to miss, as an unspoken 'you're one of us' gestures. It's a little different than the usual 'you sounded great tonight Mr.Ma' compliment he's heard a trillion and one times.

February 15, 2007 at 09:30 PM · Two years from now this thread will be rediscovered and yet the advice will still trickle in.

February 15, 2007 at 11:02 PM · That gave me a good laugh, Al.

February 15, 2007 at 11:16 PM · Sorry, Bilbo, if it keeps coming up. But, I appreciate all of the input.

February 16, 2007 at 12:00 AM · don't ask if they have any Merlot.

February 16, 2007 at 12:41 AM · I'm going to be at a reception at which I'm going to get to meet Cindy Drechsler. I'm very nervous about it and don't know what to say. Anyone got any suggestions? - Yo Yo Ma

:) Sandy

February 16, 2007 at 01:47 AM · Bilbo just now slapped his head with his hand..

-Yo Yo Ma

February 16, 2007 at 03:36 AM · That's hilarious, Al!

Cindy, my brother once said "I hate it when people compliment me by saying 'Good job.' or 'Your playing is really good.' It's because it sounds like they're just saying it. If they gave me a specific thing about my playing that they liked, I would appreciate it." So if you told Ma that you liked his phrasing in the second movement or something, he would probably appreciate it a lot more than if you just said "You're an amazing player!"

February 16, 2007 at 05:42 AM · How about, "I don't know much about music, but for an Asian person you get really emotional." Now there's an ice-breaker he'd find especially endearing.

February 16, 2007 at 06:00 AM · Alan,

Your post wouldn't be as funny if it weren't so hilariously indicative of how some people on this site think. I wonder how YoYo would respond.

February 16, 2007 at 06:14 AM · I remember when Yo-Yo Ma was on David Letterman, Letterman (who I think is way less funny than Jay Leno) started making fun of Ma's name, to the point it got really irritating for Yo-Yo Ma, and he said to Letterman "Well, it wouldn't sound any better if it was Yo-Yo Letterman."

February 16, 2007 at 06:17 AM · he'd probably respond with a flying dragon kick to the sternum

February 16, 2007 at 07:49 AM · Brian -- yeah, he probably would, being Asian and all.

February 16, 2007 at 10:15 AM · Try something casual, like, "This Two Buck Chuck really isn't too bad, is it?" :)

February 19, 2007 at 02:31 AM · Ooh, Cindy, how cool!! Enjoy - I would LOVE to have an opportunity like this. Do report back to us when the time comes. And good luck not telling your daughter about this over the next three months. I'm lousy at keeping secrets like that.

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