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Yo-Yo Ma MasterClass Review: Music and Connection

Are you passionate about music and want to learn from one of the world’s most respected musicians? Check out our honest review of Yo-Yo Ma’s MasterClass and determine if it’s suited for you.

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Yo-Yo Ma Teaches Music and Connection: Our Verdict (2024)


4.7 / 5

In his MasterClass, Yo-Yo Ma talks about music as an art form that connects people. He teaches how to develop creativity, express yourself to make an impact, and perform with emotion. It’s a truly insightful and inspiring class ideal for musicians and non-musicians alike.


  • Amazing instructor
  • Unique content
  • Exercises and assignments


  • It could cover more theory

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Music gives us a way to understand and connect with one another and imagine a better future.

The moment I started Yo-Yo Ma’s MasterClass, the only thought I had in mind was: why haven’t I done this sooner?

The topic of the class – music and connection – is something that feels very close to me. It’s similar to the topic of my graduate thesis, so I have already done thorough research on it.

Perhaps that’s why I was reluctant to take this class before; I thought it wouldn’t offer me anything new.

But, it turns out I was wrong… Very wrong.

I will explain why in the following paragraphs.

Table of Contents

What is the Yo-Yo Ma MasterClass?

Music and Connection” is an online course offered by MasterClass, a reputable online learning platform known for its exceptional team of instructors.

The class is taught by Yo-Yo Ma, one of the most prominent cellists around. He has recorded more than 120 albums and received 19 Grammy Awards, and he has performed as a soloist with orchestras around the world.

In the course, Yo-Yo Ma doesn’t give cello lessons. He talks about music and connection instead, which means he is focused on the meaning, connection, imagination, and understanding that music brings to people. 

In addition to Yo-Yo Ma’s thought-provoking lessons, the course also includes a couple of his performances and case studies.

The course contains 12 video lessons with a duration of 1 hour and 55 minutes. 

Yo-Yo Ma playing the cello

Who is Yo-Yo Ma?

Yo-Yo Ma is an American cellist widely known for his virtuosic skills. He was a child prodigy, performing from the age of four and a half, and his talent and dedication to music led him to become one of the most famous cellists in the world.

Yo-Yo Ma graduated from the Juilliard School and Harvard University. He has received numerous awards, including the Avery Fisher Prize, the National Medal of the Arts, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Among his many roles, Yo-Yo Ma is a United Nations Messenger of Peace and an advocate for a future guided by humanity, trust, and understanding.

He believes that “music, like all of culture, helps us to understand our environment, each other, and ourselves. Culture helps us to imagine a better future.”

Who is Yo-Yo Ma’s MasterClass for?

In essence, this course is for everyone.

It’s for musicians and non-musicians alike.

It’s for people who want to dig deeper into something that we experience every day and for those who want to look behind these magical moments that occur when we perform or listen to music. 

Yo-Yo Ma’s MasterClass covers a wide range of topics and approaches music in a broad sense.

However, the main reason this course has such a broad target audience is, of course, the instructor. Yo-Yo manages to deliver the content in such an impactful way, and his discussions are both challenging and easy to understand.

So, in short, I would recommend this course to fellow music lovers as well as anyone who wants to learn from an incredibly talented and wise musician.

What does Yo-Yo Ma's MasterClass cover?

Yo-Yo Ma’s MasterClass covers a variety of topics related to music.

This is not a very technical course, though – you won’t learn how to play cello or how to read notes.

However, there are many ways you can learn how to play an instrument. This course offers something else.

It’s about the emotion and intention of music, its universal meaning and impact, and human connection.

To give you a clearer idea of what the course covers, here is a quick overview of the lessons:

  • Lesson 1 is an introductory lesson where Yo-Yo introduces himself and sets the tone for the course.
  • Lessons 2-3 explore the role of music and its three core values: seeking truth, building trust, and being of service.
  • Lesson 4 is focused on creativity and the importance of breaking the boundaries of tradition and blending the old with the new.
  • Lesson 5 includes Yo-Yo’s performance of Bach, Suite no. 5, “Sarabande”
  • Lesson 6 teaches how to express yourself to make an impact.
  • Lessons 7-8 are case study lessons. In collaboration with two other cellists, Yo-Yo shows how to balance structure and emotion and explains how conscious and subconscious communication can be accessed through music.
  • Lesson 9highlights how our senses are connected to our creative imaginations.
  • Lesson 10 is focused on the key elements of a successful collaboration.
  • Lesson 11 is based on the interconnectedness of art, science, and philosophy.
  • Lesson 12 is the final lesson, where Yo-Yo talks about the power of choice and reminds us that we are all architects of our lives.

My favorite parts of Yo-Yo Ma’s MasterClass

Honestly, this is one of the best online classes I’ve taken so far.

It’s insightful and well-structured, and each lesson is interesting in its own way.

That said, it’s hard to pick the best part, but here are some of the lessons that I’ll probably remember for a long time.

What Is Music For?

Yo-Yo Ma speaking in his MasterClass
Yo-Yo Ma discussing the role of music in our lives

Music is composed of energy, ideas, feelings, and memories. According to Yo-Yo, music identifies our humanity, and everyone has their own expressive fingerprint.

As an exercise, Yo-Yo encouraged me to think about what my expressive fingerprint is and to look for what makes other people’s expressions unique.

Expressing Ourselves to Make an Impact

Yo-Yo Ma speaking in his MasterClass
Knowing the content and loving the content is where the emotion comes in

Musical performance is based on a shared emotion. It’s about delivery as well as reception, so it’s essential to establish an emotional presence. And if you want to add true emotion to your music, you need to love the content, not only know it.

Yo-Yo also shared his secret for fighting worry and stage fright and explained that he always tries to imagine himself as a host and his audience as guests.

You Are Powerful

Yo-Yo Ma speaking in his MasterClass
Yo-Yo Ma reminding us that we are the architects of our lives

This is the final lesson of the course and probably the most powerful one.

While it’s not easy to talk about abstract topics like this one, Yo-Yo managed to communicate his ideas in a very clear and eloquent way. He reminded me that I am the architect of my own life and inspired me to work on my own creativity.

Before sharing his last thoughts, he had clarified four takeaways:

  • Don’t play perfect; play present
  • Find time, however small, to be creative
  • Over time, great change will happen
  • Sit down, close your eyes, and activate your senses

How much does the MasterClass cost?

MasterClass is a subscription-based learning platform, so it’s not possible to purchase courses individually. If you want to take this MasterClass, you have to become a subscriber.

The standard annual plan has been renamed "Plus" and is available at $120 a year (which makes it $10 per month, billed annually), and now provides access to all MasterClass courses on two devices instead of one. The Premium plan, providing access for up to six devices costs $240 per year.

A MasterClass subscription gives you unlimited access to a catalog of 200+ classes, so if you want to take multiple classes throughout the year, the subscription is definitely worth it, and there are pleny of interesting courses on related topics to explore.

Also, the platform offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, so if you’re not happy with your learning experience, you can request a full refund.

Note that the "Standard" membership, priced at $72 per year, only gives you access to their short-form learning content – none of their full MasterClasses are included.

What I liked about Yo-Yo Ma’s MasterClass

And now, I’ll dig deeper into the main reasons why I would recommend this class to anyone – in Yo-Yo’s words, anyone willing to explore themselves, the human experience, and the power of music.

Amazing instructor

Yo-Yo Ma is one of the best instructors I had the chance to learn from.

He is knowledgeable and eloquent, yet very warm and passionate, and he is not afraid to go beyond what’s usually expected from music lessons.

In a way, he is like a teacher of life – blending art, technique, and emotion into a unique approach to music and life in general.

Unique content

From insightful case studies to intimate musical performances, this course really has it all.

The choice of topics is also great. All the themes are so interesting and beautifully intertwined, and even though they’re pretty abstract and complex, Yo-Yo made them very apprehensible.

Exercises and assignments

At the end of every chapter, Yo-Yo gave me an assignment.

For instance, after the “Developing Creativity” lesson, he suggested looking for something new in my next creative pursuit and encouraged me to think further about integrating “old” thinking and “new” thinking.

In my opinion, exercises and assignments – that are effective and simple – can be a great tool for engaging learners.

Drawbacks of Yo-Yo Ma’s MasterClass

Well, every course has its advantages and disadvantages. And although I don’t have many complaints about this one, I do believe there is something that could be improved…

It could cover more theory

Yo-Yo tackles many interesting topics in this course, and he does so in a very effective way. This course is for everyone, after all – not only musicians and academics.

Nevertheless, I do believe he could have made it a bit more challenging by adding some theory and explaining certain concepts related to how humans perceive music. This would make the course even more insightful and well-rounded, especially for those who are already familiar with the topic.

Review conclusion: Is Yo-Yo Ma’s MasterClass worth it?

In conclusion, I’m really impressed by Yo-Yo Ma’s MasterClass. It’s interesting, well-produced, and versatile, and Yo-Yo turned out to be an amazing teacher.

It’s not that I had any doubts… But I’m very passionate about this topic, so I was a bit afraid that the course wouldn’t meet my expectations. 

However, the course actually exceeded my expectations. There are some things I would add, but nothing much. The lessons tackled pretty much everything that is relevant to the topic, including human connection, sound, structure, communication, imagination, and emotion.

There’s something for everyone in this class, so whether you’re a musician or not, it’s worth taking a look.

In essence, it’s for anyone who wants to understand why music matters.