Rare video: Leonard Bernstein presents Yo Yo Ma, aged 7, to President Kennedy

Rare video: Leonard Bernstein presents Yo Yo Ma, aged 7, to President Kennedy


norman lebrecht

October 07, 2015

Those present on November 29, 1962 were, in addition to President and Mrs. Kennedy, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Leonard Bernstein, Marian Anderson, Van Cliburn, Robert Frost, Fredric March, Benny Goodman and Bob Newhart.

yo yo ma, aged 7


  • Rosana Martins says:

    Exatrordinary! Thank you for posting this memorable event!

  • B Bailey says:

    Charming and moving. Though he certainly improved his technique in later years.

    • Jevgeniy says:

      What aspects of his “technique” here do you find so lacking?

      • Qwerty1234 says:

        He sounds like exactly what he is in this video: an extremely talented cellist for age 7. Tight vibrato, simple bow distribution solutions, etc. Artistry level would require quite a few more years of training. He certainly figured that out and more…

  • David Boxwell says:

    In 1962, airlines didn’t smash cellos to bits. . . ah, those were the days.

  • Barbara says:

    How serious the children looked. And did Bernstein have to keep hugging the young girl?

    • herrera says:

      “did Bernstein have to keep hugging the young girl?”

      Not to worry, given all we know about Lenny, I would’ve worried if he had hugged the young Yo Yo Ma a bit too long.

    • Alex says:

      I don’t think Bernstein was much interested in little girls, if that’s what you’re implying.

  • Marg says:

    Im reminded of a clip Norman posted recently of a youngster and the responses decrying ‘exploitation’ of talented kids by their parents. Ha! YoYo seemed to grow up just fine and we are all the better for his wonderful talent. Thanks for posting this. Despite the lousy sound, it was great to view.

  • Rich Cinquino says:

    What ever became of Yo-Yo’s sister?

  • cornelis says:

    How extremely charming….

  • Nikkii says:

    Delightfully charming! Reminds me of my twin daughters when they were that age, on viola and cello. At 10 they chose gymnastics over music 🙂 They’re still delightful and charming at nearly 30 yo.

  • Prewartreasure says:

    Where’s Milka for this one?

  • Daniel F. says:

    Better times–when classical music was not barred, I suppose out of the mistaken belief that it’s “elitist,” from the White House as it has been during the eight years of Barrack Obama’s Presidency.

  • Susan Hubbard says:

    Does anyone know who the woman seated at Bernstein’s left is? She looks right out of “Mad Men.”