Trustees Award: Steve Jobs

Yo-Yo Ma pays tribute to Apple co-founder
  • Photo: Mike Ehrmann/WireImage.com
    Steve Jobs
  • Photo: Bill McCay/WireImage.com
    Yo-Yo Ma
February 09, 2012 -- 4:14 pm PST
By Yo-Yo Ma / GRAMMY.com

Before I met Steve, I first had to say no to him. In the early '90s, I was touring like a madman, trying to juggle professional commitments and a home life with a young family, when a call came in. Steve Jobs was getting married at Yosemite and he wanted me to play. I declined with great regret. When we met, years later, I was also introduced to his wife and children. The simplicity, directness and openness of his family really struck me. Steve showed me the things he cared about, and I shared the music I would have played at their wedding. From there, the friendship grew.

There were many more meetings, sometimes for a picnic dinner before concerts, other times grabbing lunch after one of his legendary presentations. Steve was ever eager to share the latest "one more thing." I will never forget how he pulled out a prototype of the iPhone for me and the astonished members of the Silk Road Ensemble at UC Berkeley, or the conversation about intuition versus intelligence and the importance of stimulating disciplined imagination in our students to ensure an innovative workforce. His life's work was a reflection of his father Paul’s lesson: "When you make something, make sure the back is as beautiful as the front, even if nobody sees it."

This last year we had three visits, and in the spring Steve asked me to play at his funeral. I said I would, if he would speak at mine. Needless to say, Steve got his way. I, like so many others, will always be grateful for the impact he had, for the beautiful tools that have helped change my thinking, but even more so for his extraordinary friendship.

(Cellist Yo-Yo Ma is a 16-time GRAMMY winner. His most recent recording is The Goat Rodeo Sessions with fellow GRAMMY-winning string virtuosos Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile. This appreciation was originally published in Entertainment Weekly.)

In addition to the GRAMMY Awards, The Recording Academy presents Special Merit Awards recognizing contributions of significance to the recording field, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustees Award and Technical GRAMMY Award. Each year, The Academy invites friends and colleagues of Special Merit Awards recipients to pay tribute to the honorees' career accomplishments, while also adding colorful anecdotes and personal accounts. In the days leading up to the 54th GRAMMY Awards, GRAMMY.com will present the tributes to the 2012 Special Merit Awards recipients.

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