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 two thousand 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. Her efforts were recognized when she was named 2013 Instrumentalist of the Year (2013) by Musical America magazine, 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, 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 the first Chinese traditional musician to receive the United States Artists 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 forty albums includes the Grammy-nominated recordings Our World in Song and Traditions and Transformations: Sounds of 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. Wu Man frequently collaborates with the San Francisco–based Kronos Quartet; the Shanghai Quartet; the Knights, based in New York City; and the Boston-based Silk Road Ensemble (SRE). She is a featured artist in the documentary The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble.
In the ever-widening circle of world music, Wu Man is known as a rock star, an exponent of the traditional Chinese repertoire and an interpreter of contemporary music written for pipa, an ancient, four-string instrument.
Wu Man performed miracles of dexterous athleticism on her amplified pipa (a Chinese lute).