Yo-Yo Ma and Renee Fleming visit Lake View High School in Chicago

Yo-Yo Ma and Renee Fleming visit Lake View High School in Chicago (March 23, 2012)

"After I play this,"Yo-Yo Masaid as he picked up his 1712 Davidoff Stradivarius cello, "tell me what you think about." This is Tuesday, around lunch.

He played the prelude from Bach's Cello Suite No. 1.

Here's a popular version of it online, which includes the entire piece:



In addition to being a classical superstar, Ma is a creative consultant with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He was playing in the Tribune editorial board room during a visit with some other CSO faces that are familiar to Trib Nation -- the CSO's Deborah Rutter, Charlie Grode and Raechel Alexander attended a community conversation last year on neighborhood crime. (And after a violent prelude to spring over the last week, it's still a timely, important and grim connection.)

On Monday, Ma and soprano and Lyric Opera creative consultant Renee Fleming performed at Lake View High School (check out this YouTube video from the audience) and then -- surprise! -- with the school's chorus at the State of Illinois building in Chicago.

What do Yo-Yo Ma, Renee Fleming, the Lyric Opera and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have in common with the Chicago Tribune?

Like us, they sense this is a crucial time to be engaged with the city they serve.

"If a change is going to come for this country, this is the place where it's going to start. Chicago is really poised to make a difference. To me the soul of America is right here," Ma said. Which makes it a crucial place to engage. "Your job as a citizen is to be able to empathize with the community. Think about what music does: It serves."

-- James Janega

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