Last evening I watched the Kennedy Center Honors as I do every year. They usually honor a couple of people I really admire and one (or two) that I know of and learn much more about. Yo Yo Ma fell into that latter category last night.
As I watched the great tribute being bestowed upon him I couldn't help but think of my very own Yo Yo Ma story. And I'll confess about a dozen Yo Mama jokes flooded my head too. But Yo Yo Ma is no Yo Mama joke - he's the world's greatest cellist. And I don't think that's even open for debate.
About a million years ago I worked in the major donor fundraising department of a local (and very popular) public radio station. My boss and I were given a tight corner in what the station fashioned a bustling news room. In this room I experienced all sorts of history: the OJ Simpson, Timothy McVeigh and President Clinton trials; the Bush V Gore election frenzy; the Y2K build-up and... well, you get the idea.
The radio station also boasted 4-5 live performances a week in the 11AM hour. From the unknown to the very famous played in our studios: James Taylor, Willie Nelson, Moby, k.d. lang, Pink Martini, Rickie Lee Jones, Beck, Tom Waits - just to name a few.
One morning there was a major buzz in the station because Yo Yo Ma was coming to do a set. At 10AM the general manager, who was a Los Angeles icon for her distinctive Brooklyn-accented pledge drive voice, burst into the room and announced rather dramatically, "YOU GUYS, STOP EVERYTHING, I HAVE NEWS."
The cabin pressure in the room changed as we braced ourselves to hear what terrible event has happened in the world as she continued as if in a dream-state, "The cello has arrived."
(Yo Yo followed the cello by about an hour.)