Arts & Entertainment

LA teenager talks about playing violin with Yo-Yo Ma

Victor Ekpo, 16, keeps time with a virtuoso.
Victor Ekpo, 16, keeps time with a virtuoso.
Grant Slater/KPCC

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Victor Ekpo was pretty scared last week when he got a chance to play his violin with Yo-Yo Ma. The world famous cellist needed an extra set of strings for a performance for kids at Inner City Arts on Skid Row. So Ekpo got the call.

Ekpo is a 16-year-old sophomore at LA’s Renaissance Arts Academy. He plays in a few youth orchestras, but "I've never played with anyone that professional in my career," he said of his moment with Ma.

Ekpo was born in Nigeria, and his parents brought him to Los Angeles at age 11.

"The violin totally transformed my life," he explained. "I listened to mostly hip-hop, things like that, but then I picked up a violin one day and said maybe I could use that to totally transform it."

His main order from Ma was classical: play Tchaikovsky's "Serenade" to accompany a basic ballet performance for a group of fourth-graders from Charles Kim Elementary School. The tall, thin and smartly dressed Ekpo was ready.

"It's a moment I'm not going to forget," Ekpo said. "The very first note I played was a C with him. And I will remember that note. That's awesome, and I hope to play many more Cs, and maybe a D with other virtuosos."