In 1983, and again in 1992, in separate radio interviews, celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma mentioned that he was enamored of the viola repertoire but was not able to access it via the cello. In 1983, Tom Knatt, student of Hutchins, offered to Ma the Alto Violin—or the “vertical viola”—he had made after the patterns developed by Hutchins. At the time, Ma tried out the vertical viola and later after a few months, wrote a postcard to Knatt saying he “wanted to play it at Carnegie Hall but couldn’t muster the courage.” A decade later, the idea appealed to him in a new way. In 1993, he tried out Knatt’s alto, and then later, several alto violins made by Hutchins. In March, 1993, Carleen Hutchins witnessed rehearsal and concert in which Yo-Yo Ma performed the Bartok Viola Concerto on her alto violin.
In 1995, Yo-Yo Ma won a Grammy for this performance featured on The New York Album.