Life’s Work: An Interview with Yo-Yo Ma
by Alison Beard
From the Harvard Business Review Magazine (June 2016)
Q. Did that involve a lot of practice on top of your natural talent?
Yo-Yo Ma. What allowed me to practice very little was great early training. My father gave me an unbelievable grounding. I could read scores without going to the piano. I knew how to dissect problems into smaller and smaller increments, so I could systematically solve most technical ones and worry about other things. You know, there are several different ways to practice.
One is just music going through your head. Another is to problem-solve away from the instrument. A third is to be tactilely engaged in engineering a solution, translating it to physical sound in physical space in the most efficient way, moving your fingers, arms, and body to elicit that which is in your head. That kind of practicing is deeply fulfilling.
It’s not emergency practicing. It’s more like information becomes knowledge becomes love. The final achievement is to say, “I truly love this, and I have enough mastery to be able to share that love with someone else.”