100 Yo-Yos

Updated Sunday, April 5, 2015

Some of you may know that I am the Executive Director of Quad City Symphony Orchestra in Davenport, Iowa, and we are celebrating our 100th Anniversary season.  For our capstone event after our Masterworks season is done, we are bringing in Yo-Yo Ma for a one-night performance of Dvorak's Cello Concerto. It was quite an accomplishment for us just to get Yo-Yo to work us in his schedule.  And the community has really responded - the concert was practically sold out in October!


To commemorate Yo-Yo's appearance, raise awareness of our 100th Anniversary, and raise funds for our music education programs, we have created a project we are calling "100 Years, 100 Cellos".  We have purchased 100 unfinished cellos that will be decorated and placed around the entire Quad Cities for a couple of months.  On May 29, 2015, the birthday of the QCSO, we will display all 100 of the cellos at our local treasure, the Figge Art Museum.  90 of the cellos will be sponsored for $1000 each, and 10 (or actually 12) will be painted by specially selected artists and celebrities and auctioned off at a pre-concert dinner event. Our goal is to raise $100,000 toward our education programs.


I am sponsoring a cello (or two or three depending...), but I need your help. But, before I tell you about my cello and how you can help, I want to tell you a bit about my relationship with Yo-Yo.  


(If you don't want to read any more and just support the project, please CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION).


The first time I met Yo-Yo was way back in 1990 when I was asked to conduct a concert at Harvard on which he was a soloist (see the photo above from the rehearsal).  It was a benefit concert for Phillips Brooks House, a service organization on campus, and he was donating his talent to benefit the organization.  Since he already had a major career at that time, I assumed that he would only have time for maybe one rehearsal plus a dress, but as I remembered it, he came to four or five rehearsals including a soloist rehearsal at his house.  He would stay for entire rehearsals, coaching us all in not just his concerto accompaniments, but also the Mozart symphony. As anyone who has worked with or even just met Yo-Yo, his generosity of spirit is without bounds, and at that stage in my career, his dedication to the music, to me, the performance, the orchestra, Phillips Brooks House was the model of how I aspired to have a career in music.  


Later, when I was at a very low personal place in my relationship with music, Yo-Yo took the time to give me thoughtful and meaningful advice that steered me back on the path of enjoying music, and he clarified for me how I could continue to make a positive impact on the world with my music and passion.  Since then, I have had the incredible gift of working with him on one of his Silk Road recordings and playing for him in master classes and for chamber music. I have heard him perform many times live in the last twenty-three years, and he has never been less than inspiring. 


It was a personal goal of mine to bring him to the Quad Cities, so that this community could also share in his generosity of spirit. 


That brings me to my cello, which is going to be a tribute to Yo-Yo Ma.  I am calling my cello "100 Yo-Yos" because I will decorate it with 100 yo-yos. And what I would really like to do is to decorate each of the yo-yos with a photo of someone who also supports music education, who supports music in regions like the Quad Cities, who is just grateful for Yo-Yo Ma and would like to be part of this tribute I am making for him - that's where you come in!  


I am asking $100 to sponsor a yo-yo.  Of that $100, $10 will go toward the sponsorship of the cello and the other $90 will go into the Annual Fund of the Quad City Symphony to support all of our activities, including education and sustaining our organization for another 100 years. I also ask that you send me a photo that I could use on your yo-yo.  My hope is that when Yo-Yo comes to the Quad Cities in May, he will see so many faces of people he knows and feel the love and support we give him for all the great things he has done in his life.  


Our organizational goal was to leverage his appearance for more than a celebration.  We hoped to increase subscription sales (which we have done), to draw attention to the fact that we are the only organization in our region that has the vision and capacity to bring an artist of this magnitude to the region, and to raise funds that will create sustainability. Ideally, the success of this project will serve as a model for smaller regional orchestras around the country for how they can assume the risk of bringing in an artist of this magnitude and leverage it for tremendous positive gain for their organization.


If enough of my friends are exceptionally generous and I gather more than 100 sponsored yo-yos, I will start to sponsor a second (and third cello). Your sponsored yo-yo is completely tax-deductible under the full extent of the law, too.


Probably by now, you are wondering how you can help me out.  All you have to do is click on this DONATION link here and make a $100 donation toward the 100 Years, 100 Cellos project.  I will be in touch directly to get your photo that you would want on your yo-yo. (If you prefer to send a check, just mail $100 to the QCSO, 327 N Brady St, Davenport, IA, 52801 and make a note on the memo line for Ben Loeb's cello.)


• If you support music education, please help me out.

• If you support orchestra music in regions like ours, please help me out.

• If you have ever been inspired by a music teacher or performer, please help me out.

• If you would like to support a project I feel passionately about, please help me out.

• If you have worked with Yo-Yo and want to be a part of a wonderful tribute to him, please help me out.


I would be so grateful for your support of my project, which helps us realize our goals for Yo-Yo's visit.  This is so important to our community! I thank you in advance.


With all my heart,



PS. Even if you don't feel like supporting, please share this request with your friends.  We need all the help we can get.