'I grew up in New York, and I would ride my bike with my cello—I'd career all over the place. I don't do that anymore.'
HOME BASE Cambridge, Massachusetts
STRING THEORY On a recent visit to New York City, Ma stopped by Morel & Gradoux-Matt (250 W. 54th St.; 212/582-8896; www.rareviolins.com), a stringed-instrument shop. "I've known owner René Morel since I was a teenager. He's the physician to my cello. René has a unique sensibility with sound—when he gets it right, he gets goose bumps."
ON THE ROAD Ma's tour schedule has him traveling almost seven months out of the year. "When I fly, I have to buy a ticket for my cello, often a first-class seat; one airline even threw a net around it once. It looked like a caged animal."
SOUND ADVICE "I lost my cello a few years ago in Manhattan. I was dropping someone off at Carnegie Hall and was running late; I left the cello in the trunk of a cab. It was a hugely traumatic experience. My wife and I were staying at the Peninsula New York [700 Fifth Ave.; 800/262-9467 or 212/956-2888; www.peninsula.com; doubles from $590], and a staff member told her, 'Don't worry, ma'am, we'll have it back in five hours.' And they did, almost to the minute. Thankfully, I'd taken the taxi receipt. Always take the receipt."