Wu Man

USA Broad Fellow, 2008

Renowned internationally as a virtuosic pipa performer, Wu Man has also carved out a career creating and collaborating on projects that give this ancient Chinese instrument a new role in today's music world, not only introducing the instrument to new audiences, but greatly enhancing and growing the core repertoire. 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 such as Philip Glass, the late Lou Harrison, Terry Riley, Tan Dun and many others. Adamant that the pipa, a lute-like instrument with a history of more than two thousand years, does not become marginalized as only appropriate for Chinese music, Wu Man has striven to develop a place for the pipa in all art forms and continually creates, develops and pursues ways in which the pipa repertoire can grow. Projects she has instigated and collaborated on 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 including calligraphers and painters. Wu Man's role has developed beyond pipa performance to encompass singing, dancing, composing and curating new works. Cited by the Los Angeles Times as "the artist most responsible for bringing the pipa to the Western World", Wu Man continually collaborates with some of the most distinguished musicians and conductors performing today. She is a principal member of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble and performs regularly throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia with the group. Wu Man also often frequently performs and records with the groundbreaking Kronos Quartet, their most recent collaboration being the multi-media work, A Chinese Home. Wu studied a classical style of pipa at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, receiving the first master's degree in that instrument. She immigrated to the United States in 1990.

Portrait photo courtesy Wang Shukai

Wu Man in concert; photo courtesy InSightFoto Inc.