Recognized as the world’s premier pipa virtuoso and leading ambassador of Chinese music, Grammy Award-nominated musician 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 Wu Man to reach wider audiences as she works to break through cultural and musical borders. Wu Man’s efforts were recognized when she was named Musical America’s 2013 Instrumentalist of the Year, 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, Wu Man 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 awarded The Bunting Fellowship at Harvard University in 1998, and was the first Chinese traditional musician to receive The United States Artist Fellowship in 2008. She is also the first artist from China to perform at the White House. Wu Man’s discography includes over 40 albums including the Grammy nominated recordings Our World in Song, Traditions and Transformations: Sounds of the Silk Road Chicago, her recording of Tan Dun’s Pipa Concerto with Yuri Bashmet and the Moscow Soloists, and You’ve Stolen My Heart featuring Wu Man and the Kronos Quartet.
During the 2015-16 season, Wu Man embarks on an extensive North American tour with longtime friends and colleagues, the Shanghai Quartet. The tour will take them to 12 cities across the U.S., with a final concert at The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Wu Man travels to Brussels and Geneva to collaborate with Uyghur singer Sanubar Tursun for performances presented by the Aga Khan Music Initiative, an interregional music and arts education program. Orchestral highlights of the season include a performance of Zhao Jiping’s Pipa Concerto No. 2, which was written for her, with the West Michigan Symphony, as well as performances with the New York Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony for their Chinese New Year celebrations.
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.
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