Yo-Yo Ma is one of the most respected musicians on the planet because of his fantastic cello performances. Many people may not know that Yo-Yo performed for President John F. Kennedy at the age of seven. The child prodigy blew the crowd away alongside his 11-year-old sister, Yeou-Cheng Ma, on piano.
The great conductor Leonard Bernstein introduces Yo-Yo Ma, saying, “An aspect of that double stream of art I mentioned earlier flowing into and out of America, has long been the attraction of our country to foreign artists, and scientists and thinkers, who have come not only to visit us, but often to join us as Americans.”
Bernstein continues, “Now, here’s a cultural image for you to ponder as you listen. A 7-year-old Chinese cellist, playing old French music, for his new American compatriots. Welcome, Yo-Yo Ma and Yeou-Cheng Ma.”
The two siblings sit on stage with Yeou-Cheng at the piano and Yo-Yo with his smaller-sized cello. They look at each other to prepare to begin, and the sister raises her eyebrows slightly to let him know they are starting.
They softly play the first movement of ‘Concertino No. 3 in A Major’ by Jean-Baptiste Breval. The audience sits at long dinner tables in formal attire as they listen to the child prodigies perform.
The stunning performance leaves the audience in awe of these children. The 1962 event is featured in black-and-white footage from ‘An American Pageant of the Arts,’ designed to raise funds for the National Cultural Center.
The National Cultural Center started under President Dwight D. Eisenhower and continued under President John F. Kennedy. Two months after the assassination of JFK, the Cultural Center was named a living memorial to his memory.