Recognized as the world’s premier pipa virtuoso, Wu Man is a soloist, educator, and composer who gives her lute-like instrument—which has a history of more than 2,000 years in China—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 global awareness of China’s ancient musical traditions. Projects she has initiated 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 has performed in recital and with major orchestras around the world, and is a frequent collaborator with ensembles such as the Kronos and Shanghai Quartets and The Knights, and is a founding member of the Silkroad Ensemble. She has appeared on nearly 50 recordings, including numerous Grammy Award-winning and -nominated albums. This season she premieres a new pipa concerto by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Du Yun, titled “Ears of the Book” with The Knights at Carnegie Hall and with the Detroit Symphony.
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. At age 13, she was recognized as a child prodigy and a national role model for young pipa players. In 2023, Wu Man was honored with both a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), one of the United States’ most prestigious honors in folk and traditional art; and with the Asia Society’s Asia Arts Game Changers Award. Wu Man is 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. She is a Visiting Professor at her alma mater the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing and a Distinguished Professor at the Zhejiang and the Xi’an Conservatories. In 2021 she received an honorary Doctorate of Music from the New England Conservatory of Music.