Pipa
Biography

Recognized as the world’s premier pipa virtuoso and leading ambassador of Chinese music, Wu Man has carved out a career as a soloist, educator and composer giving her lute-like instrument―which has a history of over 2,000 years in China―a new role in both traditional and contemporary music. Through numerous concert tours, Wu Man has premiered hundreds of new works for the pipa, while spearheading multimedia projects to both preserve and create awareness of China’s ancient musical traditions. Her adventurous spirit and virtuosity have led to collaborations across artistic disciplines allowing Ms. Wu to reach wider audiences as she works to break through cultural and musical borders. Ms. Wu’s efforts were recognized when she was named Musical America’s 2013 Instrumentalist of the Year, marking the first time this prestigious award has been bestowed on a player of a non-Western instrument. Having been brought up in the Pudong School of pipa playing, one of the most prestigious classical styles of Imperial China, Ms. Wu is now recognized as an outstanding exponent of the traditional repertoire as well as a leading interpreter of contemporary pipa music by today’s most prominent composers. She was the first Chinese traditional musician to receive The United States Artist Fellowship in 2008 and was awarded the Bunting Fellowship at Harvard University in 1998. She is the first artist from China to perform at the White House. Her discography of more than 40 albums includes the Grammy Award-winning Sing Me Home with the Silk Road Ensemble, which features heroriginal composition Green (Vincent’s Tune), and the Grammy-nominated recordings Our World in Song, Traditions and Transformations: Sounds of the Silk Road Chicago, her recording of Tan Dun’s Pipa Concertowith Yuri Bashmet and the Moscow Soloists, and You’ve Stolen My Heart featuring Wu Man and the Kronos Quartet. She frequently collaborates with the Kronos and Shanghai Quartets, the Knights, and the Silk Road Ensemble (SRE). She is a featured artist in the documentary The Music ofStrangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, seen in theaters in 2016. Highlights of Ms. Wu’s 2017-18 season include U.S. tours with the China NCPA Orchestra, Huayin Shadow Puppet Band, and the Silk Road Ensemble, of which she is a founding member. With the China NCPA Orchestra, she performs Lou Harrison’s Pipa Concerto, which the composer wrote for her and which she premiered in 1997. After performing the work in Beijing, she and the orchestra tour to Chicago, San Francisco and Ann Arbor. She tours with the Huayin Shadow Puppet Band (formerly known as the Zhang Family Band) to 11 U.S. cities, including New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Santa Barbara, Berkeley, and Cleveland. With the Silk Road Ensemble, she performs in cities across the Northeast, with further tour dates to be announced. Additional highlights include a Washington, D.C. performance of A Chinese Home, Ms. Wu’s 2009 evening-length multimedia work co-created with Kronos Quartet violinist David Harrington and director Chen Shi-Zheng, concerts in Europe and the Middle East as part of the Aga Khan Music Initiative; and recitals in New Haven, Phoenix, Portland (OR), and San Diego, among other cities in the U.S.

Born in Hangzhou, China, Wu Man studied with Lin Shicheng, Kuang Yuzhong, Chen Zemin, and Liu Dehai at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, where she became the first recipient of a master's degree in pipa. Accepted into the conservatory at age 13, Wu Man’s audition was covered by national newspapers and she was hailed as a child prodigy, becoming a nationally recognized role model for young pipa players. She subsequently received first prize in the First National Music Performance Competition among many other awards, and she participated in many premieres of works by a new generation of Chinese composers. Wu Man’s first exposure to western classical music came in 1979 when she saw Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra performing in Beijing. In 1980 she participated in an open master class with violinist Isaac Stern and in 1985 she made her first visit to the United States as a member of the China Youth Arts Troupe. Wu Man moved to the U.S. in 1990 and currently resides with her husband and son in California. For more information visit wumanpipa.org. Follow Wu Man on Facebook and @wumanpipa.

August 2017

Back to Top