Who Yo-Yo Ma
Accomplishments World famous cellist; performing at Carnegie Hall with his group The Silk Road Ensemble on Oct. 16 (it recently released the album A Playlist Without Borders); 16-time Grammy Award winner; recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Base Cambridge, Mass.
What’s the first information you consume in the morning?
I open up my email and text messages and then go on to a number of news sites—the Times, Washington Post, HuffPost, Daily Beast, Politico, things like that.
Sounds like you stay very well informed.
Well, with so many things happening in the world, occasionally it’s nice to go dark and just catch up later. But I think that, especially with the nature of the work that I do, it’s essential to know what’s going on.
Do you ever read the news in print?
Whenever I can. I travel all the time, so I don’t actually have print subscriptions to newspapers because I just end up constantly canceling them. But on the road, I like reading papers. Sometimes I go to three cities in one day, and seeing what each newspaper chooses to cover is fascinating.
Are you active on social media?
I don’t do any personally because I can barely keep up with what I have to do already. It’s something I know I’m missing out on because there’s tremendous benefit to it, but it’s also important to have silence.
What occupies your mind in the car?
I listen to NPR a lot, but often I don’t listen to anything because it’s nice to have the quiet. If I’m falling asleep, I’ll turn on some heavy metal at top volume with the windows open—although that doesn’t happen very often, since I tend not to drive when I’m really tired.
When you listen to music, is it generally for work or pleasure?
I think that depends on the switch in your brain you turn on and off. I could listen to music for sheer enjoyment, but other times it’s for critical analysis.
What music have you been listening to lately?
I work with an ensemble called the Silk Road Ensemble. Their interests in music are very widespread, so I’ve been listening to a lot of music that I otherwise would not be exposed to. And I’ve been touring with Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer and Stuart Duncan, so I’ve been listening to their music, too—a lot of bluegrass-tinged influences.
What are your favorite TV shows?
I love Homeland. It’s so amazing. And my wife and I watch a lot of news shows—we’ll watch C-SPAN, which some people say is the most boring thing on Earth, but what’s great is we get to hear authors talk about their work. Other than that, I love to watch Stephen Colbert. His show is just crazy good.
Tell me about your favorite app.
As you know, I’m a newshound, so Zite is one of my favorite apps. I use it to follow a lot of news in neuroscience and entrepreneurship. All the things I don’t get from other news sources, I get from Zite.
What’s on your reading list?
I was just reading a book that Antonio Damasio wrote called Self Comes to Mind and another book called Teaching the Taboo: Courage and Imagination in the Classroom by Rick and William Ayers. And I recently read a great book by Edward O. Wilson called Letters to a Young Scientist. He explains that the most important thing you need to be a scientist is not intelligence but passion, and the bookkeeping comes second. If what he says is true, that would be an incredible indictment of our educational system.