Yo-Yo Ma on musicians’ role in the pandemic, and countering violence and hate speech

Posted on: April 9, 2021

Yo-Yo Ma performed at a vaccination clinic in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, on March 13, 2021, after receiving his second coronavirus vaccine dose. Photo: Berkshire Community College

“Cellist Yo-Yo Ma … recently talked about the role of musicians in a pandemic and how he has shared his own music with patients, families and essential workers in need of comfort,” writes Jill Lawrence in Friday’s (4/9) USA Today. “Q: How … have you brought classical music to nontraditional settings during the pandemic? Yo-Yo Ma: The pandemic accentuated that part of me that says, why am I useful? … When people go through terrible times, there’s sometimes not much we can do. But … I can give you music. Q: Were you surprised by the violence and hate speech against Asians? Ma: …Why is anybody surprised? … We have to actually set up things so that we don’t do horrible things. The veneer of civilization, we saw what happened during World War II…. We’re all part of it…. So yes, Asians, it’s Puerto Ricans tomorrow, Haitians yesterday, Italians last century, the Irish 150 years ago…. I experienced people saying, ‘Why is it that an Oriental like you can understand Western music?’ Those questions were asked 40 years ago. They are not asked so much now…. People change over time…. What can we learn so that we can actually, legitimately, move on together?”