The Little, Big Viola
As Mia's source of strength, the cello plays a central role in If I Stay. Playing her instrument is her true passion, her future and the reason for her bond to her first love, Adam.
The first cellos were made in 16th century Italy. Composers sought an instrument with a similar sound to other stringed instruments but a lower tone than the violas and violins that were held under the player's chin. Cello is an abbreviation of the Italian word "violoncello", an oxymoron meaning "little, big viola."
As she wrote her novel, Gayle Forman was inspired by the life and work of world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma. In essence, his music sways Mia to make her final choice between life and death. Yo-Yo Ma is Mia's musical idol, and joking with Adam about his name forms the foundation for their friendship, and later, their romantic relationship.
Yo-Yo Ma began his study of the cello at age four. His principal teacher was the esteemed Leonard Rose at The Juilliard School, the prestigious institution that Mia is also drawn to. In his illustrious career, Yo-Yo Ma has recorded dozens of albums and won 15 Grammy Awards. Willing to defy simple categorizations of genre, Yo-Yo Ma's unique approach to music is reminiscent of the powerful fusion of classical and rock music that Mia's family plays at their Labor Day picnic. Yo-Yo Ma has made several recordings that blend diverse forms of music, including Hush Little Baby with Bobby McFerrin, Appalachian Journey with James Taylor and virtuoso Bluegrass Bassist Edgar Meyer, and two tributes to the music of Brazil.
This article was originally published in May 2009, and has been updated for the
April 2010 paperback release.
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