Chiyuan Ma


Hometown: Xi’an, China

Alma maters: San Francisco Conservatory of Music, M.M.; Central Conservatory of Music, B.M.

Photos by Matt Dine


Appearances: Mendocino Music Festival, 2018; Montecito Music Festival, 2016

What is your earliest memory of classical music? In 2001, when I was 9 years old, my mother and I visited her colleague to see a house concert.

When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career? When I finished my studies in high school and needed to make a decision which university I wanted to go. I had been learning the cello for 9 years at that time.

How did you hear about TŌN? What inspired you to apply? Two of my friends were in TŌN. They invited me, and told me that TŌN is a pre-professional student orchestra.

Who is your biggest inspiration? Both of my parents, who have given me a lot of support.

Which composer or genre of music do you feel you connect with the most? After I learned the baroque cello and played in some baroque ensembles, I really like Handel’s operas, which are dignified and elegant.

What has been your favorite experience as a musician? Each time we finish our performance and see the excited audience.

What is some advice you would give to your younger self? Do not worry, and be patient. You will grow up soon.

Favorite non-classical musician or band: Koji Kondo—Super Mario Bros!

If you could play another instrument, what would it be? Piano! Most of my favorite pieces are played on the piano.

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing? I would be a doctor, in order to show my mother that I could do it. She always says doctor is a career that only clever people can be.

What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to and why? Mendocino. I went there for a music festival last year. What a nice and peaceful village!

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us: 18 years ago, if my mother and I visited her colleague to see someone’s paintings, I absolutely would not be a musician today.