Award-winning pipa virtuoso and Mosaic Fellow Shenshen Zhang has been recognized in Asia and America for her exquisite tonal qualities and delicate lyric interpretations. Perhaps best known for performing many of the traditional Chinese pipa repertoires, Shenshen has also participated in landmark premieres of works and recordings by the modern generation of world composers like Tan Dun and Chen Yi, among others. Since making her home in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, she has been honored to perform with many exceptional international artists, including Houston Grand Opera, Alonzo King Lines Ballet, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and Symphony Silicon Valley. She also has been privileged to record the Pipa sound for Apple’s GarageBand app (released in 2016). Shenshen has merged her wide-ranging performance career and her expressive musical abilities, preserving the heritage of China while also exploring the musical legacies of other world cultures.
A native of China, Ms Zhang began playing the Pipa when she was nine still living in her hometown of Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, in southeast China, playing music with her mother, who initially recognized her talent having played the pipa herself from an early age. Soon, Ms Zhang enrolled in the Wenzhou Junior Arts School and she had her initial solo debut at age 11.
At age 13, following a multi-level music and general education assessment of pipa students from all regions of China, Ms. Zhang was fortunate selected for the Pipa Major at the Preparatory School affiliated with the prestigious Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. She was graduated from the school with an excellent academic record. After graduation, Ms Zhang was admitted to the Chinese Music Department of Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing, where she continued studying pipa performance with Professor and Pipa Master Weixi Sun, Shicheng Lin, Yuzhong Kuang and Zemin Chen. Four years later, Ms Zhang completed her academic and music course work at the Central Conservatory and, due to her outstanding accomplishments, she was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance (B.A.) with a major in Pipa and a minor in Piano, Guzheng and Ruan.
In 2005, following an additional three years of study combining performance, composition and ethnomusicology, coupled with completion of her thesis “The Variations of the Shape and Structure of Twisted Neck Pipa and its Playing Skills” (published in The New Voice of Yue-Fu, The Academic Periodical of Shenyang Conservatory of Music), Ms Zhang was awarded a Master of Arts in Musicology (M.A.) from Xiamen University (China).
Upon graduation from Central Conservatory of Music, Ms Zhang was offered a tenured position at the Xiamen Opera House as Pipa Soloist. Over the next decade, Ms. Zhang played many solo performances in Xiamen with the Opera House Symphony Orchestra and the Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra. She was also honored to represent the Opera House as a solo performer on national and international tours, playing over a thousand combined performances in China, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. While still in Xiamen, Ms. Zhang held a celebrated solo pipa recital in 2003 and a quintet ensemble concert in 2005.
With a natural and elegant performance style developed from an early age, Ms Zhang has won many citations and awards including the “Outstanding Solo Performance Award” in the Young Professional Pipa Performer category in the 1st International Chinese Traditional Instruments Competition, Beijing (1989), and 2nd place in Chinese String Ensemble Competition at the Fujian Art Festival in 2001.
While remaining pipa traditional repertoires, Ms Zhang participated in many landmark premieres of works by a modern generation of like Tan Dun, Guo Wenjing and Li Binyang. Chamber opera, Courtside, written by Bay Area composer, Jack Perla, and produced by Houston Grand Opera (Premiere, February 2011); Jazz composition Shanghai Story by Francis Wong (Premiere, November 2010, with San Francisco trombonist, Wayne Wallace, Melody of China and Asian Improv aRTs); Multi-media chamber music, Shanghai Trilogy composed by Joan Huang with Bridge Chamber Virtuosi, (Premiere, June 2010, Expo 2010 Shanghai and July 2010, Asian Arts Museum, San Francisco); Chamber ensemble composition, Prelude K2 Play composed by Jim Francisco (Premiere, October 2009, Los Gatos, CA); Chamber composition for Chinese and western instruments, Wondering Along the Journey composed by Yuanlin Chen (NYC) with Melody of China. (Premiere, October 2007, San Jose, Mountain View, San Francisco and Berkeley, and January 2008, 30th Anniversary National Conference Chamber Music America, New York); Contemporary ballet, Long River High Sky, composed by Miguel Frasconi, Melody of China, presented by Lines Ballet Company and choreographed by Alonzo King (Premiere, April 2007, San Francisco).
Recently Ms. Zhang successfully held her solo recital as opening program of Music @Noon at Santa Clara University (2016). She has been honored to record the Pipa sound for Apple GarageBand app (released in 2016). She has also been performed with LA Chamber Orchestra (2015), participated for three seasons of San Francisco Symphony’s Adventure in Music (AIM) Educational Program (2014, 2011,2008), Symphony Silicon Valley’s ArtSPARK program (2011) and Disneyland (2019).
Ms Zhang has taught in Stanford University as music instructor (2015–2017), and she has her own pipa studio in Silicon Valley where she teaches classical Chinese music to a diverse student population.
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