World-renowned pipa virtuoso and cultural ambassador Wu Man will bring the gift of Chinese music and culture to Middle Tennessee State University on Friday, April 7, when she presents “Music for Hope,” a free public concert and lecture.
In her 4 p.m. lecture-concert in Hinton Hall inside MTSU’s Wright Music Building at 1439 Faulkinberry Drive, sponsored by the MTSU Center for Chinese Music and Culture, Wu will share a moving story of her journey around the world and the highs and lows of being an immigrant woman of color in musical America.
An expert on the 2,000-year-old, pear-shaped lute-like pipa, Wu is the first artist from China to perform at the White House and a principal, founding musician in Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble project.
She’s also a recipient of a 2023 National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, America’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts.
Wu’s musical journey began with lessons on the pipa in her hometown of Hangzhou at age 9. An invitation to audition for China’s Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing at 13 led to an arduous six-hour train ride where, alone in a massive city, she struck the notes that brought her acclaim as a prodigy and catapulted her toward a trailblazing world career.
Instead of choosing a comfortable life in her home country, Wu took off for the United States to forge global fame. First performing in the United States as a member of the China Youth Arts Troupe in 1985, Wu moved to America five years later and launched performing and recording partnerships with artists from many world traditions, including Kronos Quartet, Philip Glass, Liu Sola, Yuri Bashmet and others, blending classical and folk music from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and North America.
In 1999, she became the first artist from China to perform at the White House, and in 2013 Wu was the first non-Western instrumental performer to earn Musical America magazine’s Instrumentalist of the Year prize. She also is a 2023 recipient of the Asia Society’s Asia Arts Game Changer Award.
Throughout her discography of over 40 albums, she’s woven a tapestry of collaborations and genre-bending songs, including five that are Grammy-nominated.
In one of her acceptance speeches, Wu Man said she is proud to have “not only entertained audiences but engaged and educated them” as well.
Previews of her music are available at Wu’s website, https://wumanpipa.org.
The June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students at MTSU and the MTSU Distinguished Lecture Fund are co-sponsors of Wu’s visit, which concludes MTSU’s 2023 celebration of National Women’s History Month.
The MTSU Center for Chinese Music and Culture is the only center of its kind in North America. The CCMC’s mission is to engage regional, national and global communities about rich and diverse musical and cultural traditions from China.
The center, which opened in 2016 in MTSU’s Miller Education Center on Bell Street east of campus, includes a gallery of Chinese musical instruments, a library and archives, and two classrooms.
For more information on the center and its activities, visit www.mtsu.edu/chinesemusic.
— Nina Meer and Gina E. Fann (email@example.com)
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