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Yo-Yo Ma Visits Edgewater Schools — Twice

CHICAGO — It's not every day that a world-famous cellist visits a neighborhood school.

But two schools in Edgewater — Senn High and Swift Elementary — have lucked out in the past few months when they both got separate visits from the legendary Yo-Yo Ma.

"He's like my new BFF," said Senn's principal, Susan Lofton, who hosted the musician in December in the school's renovated auditorium and shook hands with Ma at Swift Elementary School on Monday.

Ma performed to a packed audience at Senn and spoke intimately with teachers and students on Monday at Swift, said Jon Weber, a program director with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

As a "creative consultant" for the orchestra, Ma visits Chicago about four times a year, and under the city's effort to partner cultural organizations with Chicago Public Schools, Edgewater was graced with the visits, Weber said.

But does Ma, who makes appearances all over the world, have an affinity for the neighborhood?

"It's really just coincidental. We found two great sites in the Edgewater neighborhood" for the events, Weber said.

Ma, whose home base is in Boston, was traveling on Wednesday after leaving Chicago and could not be reached for comment.

But Lofton said Ma on Monday remembered her from his Senn appearance and fondly remembered the school's auditorium. All 975 seats were filled.

"The excitement surrounding just the announcement [he was coming to Senn] was incredible," Lofton said. "There was just this amazement that a man of his world stature and talent would come to a neighborhood high school to play for free."

At Swift, Lofton said the virtuoso helped teachers with their curriculum.

"Those teachers got a real gift," she said.

Weber said Ma has a curiosity "about the role the arts play in the complete education of children."

Lofton said she'd be more than happy to have Ma back for another visit.

"This is certainly a place he could call a second home," she said.