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, 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. Wu Man has appeared in more than 40 recordings throughout her career, including the Silkroad Ensemble’s Grammy Award-winning recording Sing Me Home, featuring her composition “Green (Vincent’s Tune).” She is also a featured artist in the 2015 documentary The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. During the 2021–22 season, she and the ensemble toured the eastern United States with a program titled “Phoenix Rising,” marking the first tour under the group’s new artistic director Rhiannon Giddens. In 2021 and 2022, Wu Man was a leading faculty member for Silkroad’s Global Musician Workshop.
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 hailed as a child prodigy and became a nationally recognized role model for young pipa players. She subsequently received first prize in the First National Music Performance Competition, among other awards, and participated in many premieres of works by Chinese composers. Wu Man moved to the United States in 1990 and was awarded the Bunting Fellowship at Harvard University in 1998. She was the first Chinese traditional musician to receive the United States Artist Fellowship (2008) and the first artist from China to perform at the White House. In 2013, she was named Musical America’s Instrumentalist of the Year and in 2021, she received an honorary doctorate of music from the New England Conservatory of Music. Wu Man is a recipient of the 2023 National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts, one of the United States’ most prestigious honors in folk and traditional arts. In 2023, she was also honored with the Asia Society’s Asia Arts Game Changers Award, an annual award presented in New York City that recognizes and honors artists and arts professionals for their significant contributions to contemporary art. Wu Man 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. She has also served as Artistic Director of the Xi’an Silk Road Music Festival at the Xi’an Conservatory.