Yo-Yo Ma began learning cello when he was four, and at seven years old he played at a gala attended by important figures such as Leonard Bernstein and Presidents Kennedy and Eisenhower. He began attending Julliard at the age of nine as well. Ma has won 18 Grammy awards in many categories, including classical, folk, chamber music, and world music. He has continually endeavored to expand on the classical repertoire for cello by playing lesser-known pieces and debuting new works by contemporary composers; Ma also has a project called Silkroad, where a group of artists celebrate their many cultures through music performance.
Yo-Yo Ma is the best cellist because of his talent playing not simply classical music but also many other genres. Most other cellists are mainly known for their renditions of famous classical pieces. While Ma is definitely a master of Bach and Dvorak, he has also ventured into a much more diverse range of music, from bluegrass to Chinese folk. Some of his work can even be hard to define because it deftly blends several genres together. In combining this musical dexterity with his popularity and reach around the world, Yo-Yo Ma has achieved a status that other cellists have not.
Some have argued that Yo-Yo Ma is the greatest living cellist, but this does not take into account others that have come before him that have arguably surpassed him in multiple ways. For example, Ma has not taught any world-famous cellists or directly involved himself in fostering positive political change like Rostropovich did. Ma may have accomplished a lot in his life so far, but he should not be considered the best simply because other cellists in the past have done more than he has.
Rejecting the premises