Recognized as the world’s premier pipa virtuoso and leading ambassador of Chinese music, Wu Man is a soloist, educator, and composer who gives her lute-like instrument a new role in both traditional and contemporary music. She 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. These projects have resulted in the pipa finding a place in new solo and quartet works, concertos, opera, chamber, electronic, and jazz music, as well as in theater productions, film, dance, and collaborations with visual artists. She is a frequent collaborator with the Kronos Quartet, is an original member of the Silkroad Ensemble, and has appeared in more than 40 recordings throughout her career.
Highlights of her 2018–19 season include the US Premiere of Zhao Lin’s A Happy Excursion, Concerto for Pipa and Cello, with Yo-Yo Ma and the New York Philharmonic; two US Premieres by Chinese composers with the Taipei Chinese Orchestra at Carnegie Hall; a European tour as a master musician in the Aga Khan Music Initiative (a group of performers who create music inspired by their cultural heritage of the Middle East, South and Central Asia, West Africa, and China); and performances in China with the Huayin Shadow Puppet Band, which blends traditional Chinese music and shadow puppetry. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Silkroad Ensemble this year, she performs with the group in Australia, Asia, and the US.
Born in Hangzhou, China, Wu Man studied at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, where she became the first recipient of a master’s degree in pipa. She was named Musical America’s 2013 Instrumentalist of the Year, but the best measure of her achievement is that her instrument, which dates back 2,000 years, is no longer an exotic curiosity.