Earlier this week, the vaccine administrators working at Berkshire Community College (alongside those getting their vaccine jabs), got a special surprise performance. Famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed at the vaccine clinic for onlookers, for free.
Yo-Yo Ma began to play the cello when he was 4 years old; since then, Ma has made a name for himself in the music sphere and well beyond. He’s an accomplished musician and songwriter, with 18 Grammy awards under his belt as well as 75 albums to his name. He’s a Harvard graduate, a recipient of the National Medal of Arts, and was even a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010. After college, Ma’s career was impeded by surgery for severe scoliosis that left him in a body cast. Luckily the surgery was successful, and since then Ma’s career has only blossomed.
Now 65 and a Berkshire, Massachusetts resident, Ma went in for his vaccine jab. After his vaccination, he sat, wearing a mask and socially distanced, with others under a fifteen-minute observation period. During this observation, Ma played the cello to show appreciation for the workers and the residents getting their vaccines. In a statement, it is reported that Ma wanted to “give something back” by performing, and give everyone something to smile about. He played “Ave Maria” and the prelude to Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 1”. It was so powerful that he moved many observers, all patients, nurses, and other vaccine distributors, to tears.
This isn’t the first time that Ma has done something like this during the pandemic. One year ago, when the pandemic first began, Ma began to upload music to Twitter. He wanted to share music and try to assuage the worried feelings of many followers of classical music. Ma states in one of his Twitter posts, “In these days of anxiety, I wanted to find a way to continue to share some of the music that gives me comfort.” In addition to his Twitter recordings, he’s also joined Emanuel Ax, a famous classical pianist, in a series of concerts performed for essential workers.
In the reception of Ma’s work, many have come out speaking to the power of Ma’s music and how it has proven a cheering act in the face of all the negativity. State Rep. Smitty Pignatelli says that Ma emits “hope and optimism through his beautiful music.”
Other musicians have also succeeded beyond the classical realm of music in spreading this optimism during these hardships of the past year. Musicians like Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney, and The Rolling Stones have all played music and shared personal stories to encourage donations for the World Health Organization and its global front against the coronavirus pandemic. Music as a whole has been a large aspect of the pandemic and the healing of the mental impact that COVID-19 has had on all of us. Music therapy has become a way for COVID-19 recovery patients to reconnect and cope with long-term coronavirus. Tom Sweitzer, a music therapist, says that “music therapy is a clinical and therapeutic tool. But one thing music does for a lot of individuals is it brings joy.”
Yo-Yo Ma’s performance at the vaccine center is an example that even the small things matter immensely. Music as a whole has influenced us during the pandemic whether we realized it or not. His performance may not have been grandiose or far-reaching, but maybe music doesn’t always have to be that way to have the impact it does.