Yo-Yo Ma

There are two videos to choose from to learn about Yo Yo Ma.

The first one is better for younger kids, the second one will appeal to older kids. Feel free to watch one, or both!

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page to test your understanding by taking the quiz!

High school students or any student who wants to dig deeper, continue your study with the advanced learning project located at the end of this learning block!

Take A Deeper Dive!


Make Your Own Stringed Instrument

Yo-Yo Ma plays the cello, which is a stringed instrument. Watch the video. Which very large stringed instrument ISN’T included? CLUE: It’s the instrument Yo-Yo Ma wanted to learn to play…

  • Which of the stringed instruments do you most like the sound of?
  • Do you know anyone who plays any of these instruments?
  • Are there any other stringed instruments you can think of?
  • Does it surprise you that a piano is a string instrument?
  • Which stringed instrument would you choose to play, or do you play one already?

Now you know a bit more about stringed instruments, it’s time to make one!!

Supplies Needed:

  • Rubber bands
  • Kitchen Roll Tube (or two toilet roll tubes taped together)
  • Craft Sticks (lolly sticks)
  • Tape
  • Glue
  • Scissors (check with an adult)
  • Pencils/pens/crayons

When you’ve finished, remember to take a photo or a video of you playing your new instrument to include in your portfolio!

Young Yo-Yo

Imagine being the 7 year old Yo-Yo Ma making your debut playing the cello for President Kennedy! Write a diary entry that the young Yo-Yo might have written that night (source: printablepaper.net).

Things you might consider:

  • How might he have felt? Nervous/excited/proud?
  • How did he feel about playing in front of the President?
  • How did he feel about being on TV and having cameras all around him?
  • Did he worry about what to wear/what to say/making a mistake?
  • Did he look for his parents in the audience?

Remember to include your diary entry in your portfolio!


Write a Biography of Yo-Yo Ma

You’ve learnt a lot about Yo-Yo’s life, now it’s time to write his biography – or the story of his life…so far!

Remember, there’s a lot more to this man than his beautiful music. 

In 1998 Ma founded the Silk Road Project. This is an arts organisation that initially focused on exploring the cultural traditions of The Silk Road. The Silk Road was an ancient trading route that linked China with the West.

This grew into The Silk Road Ensemble – a group of international musicians playing together and celebrating their different cultures.

Now Silk Road is a not-for-profit organisation connecting and promoting all sorts of artistic activity and cultures! The two videos below give you a flavour of what Silk Road is all about.

Things you might include:

  • key facts – birth/origins/talent
  • early life, family & career
  • key events
  • notable musical achievements
  • other achievements

You can fill in this sheet (from https://squareheadteachers.files.wordpress.com/) to write your biography.

Be sure to add the biography to your portfolio!

Advanced Project

Choose at least one.

What’s The Score?

The Crouching Tiger Concerto for the 2000 film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was written for and inspired by Yo-Yo Ma. He is renowned for being able to bring out the emotion in a piece of music. 


Listen to this piece of music with your eyes closed and notice how it makes you feel. When it has finished, write down the emotions that came up for you while you were listening to it. Think about the tempo, types of instruments playing, tune (can you tell if major or minor notes are being used and what is the difference in the kind of sound/emotions that creates?). 

You might want to watch the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon in its entirety. Check with an adult first as it’s for ages 13+. 

When music is used in films it is called the “score” and it is a hugely important part of the storytelling of the film. 

Before we had ‘talkies’ (films with synchronised dialogue) there were silent movies. The music had to tell the story because the words were in subtitles only. 

Music is capable of stirring our emotions and causing physiological reactions in our bodies. It can create every kind of mood: sombre, grief-stricken, melancholy, sad, frightening, terrifying, angry, fun, joyous, happy, silly, crazy, wild, loving, romantic, sexy.


Now listen to these musical scores and notice 


Why not create a piece of music yourself? This could be on an instrument you already play, or even one you don’t. It could be a song that you write or you could learn the spoons, hambone or jaw harp with Teilhard Frost in his learning blocks here at Omnis! Think about the mood you want to create and explore the notes, tempo and type of tune that best convey that mood.

You could experiment with Musescore to write your own score!

Include your written work in your portfolio as well as a video of any music you make!


Read Aloud Book(s)

NOw Let’s Have some fun!