Wu Man belongs to a rare group of musicians who have redefined the role of their instruments, in her case, the pipa — a pear-shaped, four-stringed Chinese lute with a rich history spanning centuries. She is celebrated as one of the most prominent instrumentalists of traditional Chinese music, as well as a composer and educator. She has premiered hundreds of new works for the pipa and has performed in recital and with major orchestras around the world. She 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 more than 40 recordings, including the Silkroad Ensemble’s Grammy-winning recording Sing Me Home, featuring her composition “Green (Vincent’s Tune).” She is also a featured artist in the 2015 Emmy Award–winning documentary The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. In the 2023–24 season, Wu Man premieres a new Pipa Concerto by Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Du Yun with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and later with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. She returns to Carnegie Hall for performances with the Kronos Quartet and The Knights.
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. Wu is a recipient of the 2023 National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), one of the United States’ most prestigious honors in folk and traditional arts. In 2023 she was additionally honored with the Asia Society’s Asia Arts Game Changers Award, an annual award presented in New York City honoring artists and arts professionals for their significant contributions to contemporary art. 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. She has also served as artistic director of the Xi’an Silk Road Music Festival at the Xi’an Conservatory.