Yo-Yo Ma’s sister tells of the healing powers of music
By Jennifer Garfinkel, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Thursday, February 3, 2005
Yeou-Cheng Ma, sister of famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, discussed the beneficial effects of music on health during a lecture Wednesday night in Filene Auditorium.
Ma called music "a universal language," in that everyone starts off as bilingual, accustomed to the music of a mother's high voice and cooing in addition to language.
"It's just a matter of whether or not you keep it," Ma said.
She pointed out that the temporal lobes in the back of the head deal with music, but in professional musicians it is the left side of the brain that deals with music. The left side of the brain is the side that deals with language in most people.
Music -- listening to it but especially playing it -- produces pleasure-causing endorphins, Ma said, adding that music can be good even for healthy people.
"There are many things that are good for you. Music is one of them," she said.
Ma, a violinist since age two and a pianist since age three, performs as a chamber musician and teaches violin and viola at the Children's Orchestra Society. Ma is also a Harvard Medical School graduate and works with children who have developmental disorders.
To be healthy, "all parts must be together," Ma said. "If you have the chance to put mind, body and spirit all together then you have a chance to be well."
Ma recounted how her brother decided to become a professional cellist. He wanted to be a doctor, thinking that music was not useful. Ma told her brother, "If you go to a country torn by war to play, and if you touch but one heart, maybe that is just as good as a doctor can do."
Ma said she believes that music can mesmerize people.
Ma opened the evening by playing a duet with Rebecca Bruccoleri '05, the C. Everett Koop Institute's administrative lectureship intern who organized the event. Ma played the violin and Bruccoleri played keyboard.
Bruccoleri, who invited Ma to visit the College to discuss the importance of art to the healing process, said she was very satisfied with the lecture and the audience's reaction.
"I was happy to have someone like her come to discuss two things that are so important in our lives," Bruccoleri said.
Audience members attended the lecture for different reasons.
"My health psychology professor, professor Mark Detzer, suggested it. I'm interested in nontraditional factors that might affect health," Karenne Eng '05 said.
Others had more personal reasons for coming. Nigel Hsu '08 played clarinet in Ma's Long Island, N.Y., orchestra before attending Dartmouth.
"I think she's an amazing person. She's very kind and she helped me both in orchestra and in life," Hsu said.
Still others came to see what it would be all about.
"I didn't know much about the connection between music and healing, but it makes sense and it was very well presented," Helen Gurina '08 said.