Along the Way


I was born and raised in New York. My parents were two extraordinary people. Although they came from different parts of the world…my mother’s parents had come to the US from Jamaica and my father came from Germany…they shared many of the same values and passions, and created for me, a special and enriching environment, with a multicultural family and an international group of friends.

Each summer, we would travel to Europe, spending weeks with my Grandmother and my Uncle’s family in Hamburg. We also visited other countries while abroad, and I gained an appreciation for how unusual our family of three appeared to people in far away places. I started to understand, at a very young age, that my parents were indeed mavericks, with the courage to pursue the love and lives they had envisioned, in spite of racial and political tensions at the time. I also learned to love traveling, and to embrace the opportunity to meet people from other places.

Always Music in the House

My parents were very musical people. They made their careers in medicine, but as children, they were musically active. My mom had been a serious pianist as a teenager and my dad had grown up singing in choirs and admiring the liturgical organ repertoire that he loved until the end of his life. The two of them had formidable record collections that were in use most evenings and throughout the weekends. There was always music in the house.

As an only child I received a lot of attention and was treated to a regular schedule of concerts, ballet performances and trips to the museum on the weekends.  I loved the adventure of it all. Attending all those concerts, operas, and ballets with my folks was exhilarating as well as educational.  My parents shared the richness of New York’s cultural scene with me through their own passion for the arts. It was delightful and when I look back on it, I realize that they provided a tremendous treasure trove for me, in a profound and foundational way.

I first heard the cello when I was 3 years old. We were at Tanglewood attending a concert on the lawn and someone performed a cello concerto with the BSO.  I have a vivid memory of being on my dad’s shoulders and asking him to bring me closer to the stage, so that I could get a better look at the cello. I had fallen in love with the sound of the instrument right then and there, but it was several years before I would get my own cello. No one in my family knew that cellos came in baby sizes.

The Cello

When I was 7 yrs old, classmates started showing up at school with tiny violins, violas and cellos. My mother, always on the lookout for learning opportunities for me, immediately contacted her elaborate social network of parent friends and tracked down the source of this sudden musical presence. A wonderful string teacher named Dr. H.T. Ma had moved  to NY and established the Children’s Orchestra Society. In no time, my mom signed me up and I too was sporting a ¼-size cello to school during the week. 

The year that I spent with Dr. Ma was full of discovery and insight, the beginnings of what would become my cello technique. In a very short time, he taught me to play the instrument, read music in 3 different clefs, think and sing in solfége, and count rhythms aloud. By the end of the year, I was appearing in a small solo with the orchestra. I also recall a very advanced teenager who would frequently join the cello section to lend support. He was kind, generous and awfully good at playing the cello. He was, of course, Yo-Yo Ma.