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Yo-Yo Ma tells story behind his cello performance at vaccination center

The cellist spoke with TODAY's Jenna Bush Hager.
/ Source: TODAY

Famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma is sharing new details about what inspired his impromptu performance at a vaccination center in Massachusetts last weekend.

The unexpected moment, which has since gone viral, occurred when the musician visited the Berkshire Community College field house to receive his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

In an interview Tuesday with TODAY's Jenna Bush Hager, the 65-year-old explained he couldn't leave his instrument in the car for insurance reasons so he brought it inside with him when he and his wife, Jill Hornor, went to get their shots.

"We were about to get poked, and Jill takes the cello over," he said. "The people recognized her and me, and they say, 'Well, are you gonna play for us?'"

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The musician was happy to oblige, and local citizens were even more excited to listen to his performance of "Ave Maria." Ma even recalled one man who seemed particularly impacted by the experience.

"There was an older man who brought a chair over and sat straight in front, distanced, and obviously needed something (to comfort him)," he said.

Jenna aptly described the moment as a "happy accident" and asked Ma if he was glad he brought his instrument with him that day.

"In the end, yes. I'm always happy to respond when people feel like they need some music; that's what I'm here for. I'm basically a human boombox," he said.

After watching the segment, Jenna added that Ma said he was grateful for the opportunity to give back during a difficult time.

"He said he loves Mister Rogers and always to look for the helpers," she said. "And the way he can help is through music."