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Yo-Yo Ma brought his cello with him to get his COVID-19 shot — and then played a surprise concert

World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma gave an impromptu concert in the waiting area of a Massachusetts vaccination site after receiving his 2nd COVID-19 dose. During the customary 15-minute observation period that follows each dose, Ma performed Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria" and the prelude to Bach's "Cello Suite No. 1" on his cello, which he'd brought with him. 

Today at the #MyBCC vaccine clinic, folks waiting in the observation area were graced by the musical talents of amazing cellist Yo-Yo Ma! 😍😍😍

Posted by Berkshire Community College on Saturday, March 13, 2021

The 18-time Grammy award-winner brought his instrument along with him to the vaccination site at Berkshire Community College's Pittsfield, Massachusetts campus. According to Jonah Sykes, associate director of marketing and communications at the college, "He asked one of our clinic managers if he could perform a few songs for folks in the observation area." 

After receiving his second dose, the masked and socially-distanced Ma set up along the back wall, and spent the next 15 minutes — the required waiting period in case of any side effects from the vaccine — serenading those waiting along with him.  

"Many people were moved to tears," said Sykes. "It was an exceptional moment at the end of a long day of giving shots."

Berkshire Community College

Ma, 65, got his vaccine through the Berkshire COVID-19 Vaccine Collaborative, a partnership of various health departments in the county, where Ma is a part-time resident, that is distributing the COVID-19 vaccine through clinics. The location has hosted roughly 30 clinics so far, offering all three FDA-approved vaccines: the two-shot Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, as well as the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. According to Sykes, the site has administered over 17,000 shots to people in the county.

He received his vaccination on the one-year anniversary of when he launched #SongsOfComfort on Twitter, a series of live recordings of him playing his cello, hoping to bring comfort to those suddenly forced to stay at home.

Soon, other musicians added to the hashtag, turning it into a worldwide project. Ma even released an album inspired by the project, "Songs of Comfort and Hope," in December with British pianist Kathryn Stott. 

Ma has been performing since stay-home orders were issued for the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. In August, he and classical pianist Emmanuel Ax put on a series of pop-up concerts for essential frontline workers — public transportation drivers, firefighters, healthcare providers and more — in the Berkshires region.

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