It’s hard enough for a woman to have one full-time career, but Fresh Meadows resident Yeou-Cheng Ma has been maintaining two that are totally different as both a prominent musician and a pediatrician.
Born in France to Chinese immigrants, Yeou-Cheng was raised by two parents who were in the field of music. Her mother Marina Lu was a singer, while her father Hiao-Tsiun Ma was an established violinist, composer and professor of music.
“I started to learn music at the age of 2 1/2, when my father taught me the violin,” Ma said. “At 3, I took piano lessons, but with someone else.”
In fact, she accompanied her famous brother, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, for nine years, although not at his concerts.
“We did play together in my father’s orchestra and chamber music during college. Now I teach violin at the Children’s Orchestra Society that my father founded. Upon his retirement my brother was his first request,” Ma said. “However, at that time Yo-Yo was busy touring. He then asked me, to which I replied, ‘Yes, but not this year since I’m interning pediatrics and working 120 hours out of 168.’”
The Children’s Orchestra Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching children and teens “the language of music.”
Ma grew up in Paris, coming to the United States with her family in the early 1960s.
“I spoke very little English and was most proficient in math and science. Entering college I decided to major in chemistry,” Ma said. “I then applied to both graduate and medical school. Accepted in both at Harvard University, I chose medical school first. It was through the advice of a mentor along with my love for children that I opted to be in the field of pediatrics.”
Practicing since 1982, Ma specializes in development pediatrics, the care of children with special needs, at Einstein Medical Hospital in the Bronx.
“My focus is on children who have problems communicating,” she said.
She described one of her unforgettable memories as a pediatrician when she spent two months in Puerto Rico.
“I was given the opportunity to partake in a free cram course learning to speak Spanish if I wanted to do some practicing in a Spanish-speaking country,” Ma said. “As a physician it was much easier to communicate with the children in their own language rather than having an interpreter.”
Ma finally took on the role of the executive director of the Children’s Orchestra Society after getting married and having a child. Her musician husband, Michael Dadap, said he dreamed about having his own music school. It was then that Ma took on the role with Dadap as the artistic and music director.
Musical genes have been passed down to another generation as both of her children are musically inclined.
“My son has played the cello, piano, trombone and percussion as well as creating his own set of bagpipes,” Ma said. “My daughter loves to sing, plays the cello and is pursuing an acting career.”
During a tour of Ma’s musical basement, she spoke about her fondest memory in music as she played violin with her brother at a fund-raising concert at the Kennedy Center.
“I met Marian Anderson, John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Robert Frost, who was reading his poetry, and Danny Kaye,” she said. “Yo-Yo and I were so fond of Danny Kaye that it was the highlight of the evening.”
The basement revealed a piano, a recording studio and some rather artistic decor. Ma showed off her skills playing a few bars on the piano and part of a music piece on the violin. She then demonstrated how to hold the violin and bow to produce some decent sounds from the instrument.
On April 27 at 5 p.m., she will be performing with the classical duo Cross Island at the Nicholas Roerich Museum, 319 W. 107th St., in Manhattan.
The Children’s Orchestra is holding its next concert, the 20th Annual Discovery Gala, May 3 at Lincoln Center’s Tully Hall.
©2014 Community News Group
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