Wu Fei

Guzheng and Vocalist

““Cell phones got alerts that a performance by Chinese guzheng player Wu Fei was at capacity.”” — Rolling Stone magazine, on Wu Fei’s sold out solo performance at Big Ears music festival, March 2017.
““Wu’s work evinces respect for tradition, an interest in what instruments can do, a strong sense of architecture, and good old fashioned showmanship.”” — Allmusic.com’s review of Wu Fei's chamber work album Yuan, released on Tzadik Records.


Wu Fei is a classically trained composer, singer and renowned master of the guzheng — the 21-string Chinese zither. She has taken her music around the world, appearing at such venues as the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, Shanghai’s Expo 2010, New York’s MoMA, the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands, Vossa Jazz in Norway, the Europalia Festival in Belgium, and the Big Ears Festival in Tennessee, the Chautauqua Institute, Butler University, Lehigh University and Princeton University.

Wu plays in the guzheng’s vernacular — a musical language at least 2,500 years old – mixing Western classical and Chinese traditions with a contemporary, idiosyncratic sound. She composes for choir, string quartet, chamber ensemble, Balinese gamelan and orchestra. Her many commissions have ranged from a composition for Percussions Claviers de Lyon, which premiered in the Forbidden City, to live performances in Paris and Tokyo for luxury brand Hermès. She has received commissions from Nashville’s Intersection ensemble, Chatterbird ensemble and individual soloists globally.

Her composition for chamber orchestra, “Hello Gold Mountain,” featuring Wu Fei on guzheng and vocals and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz (of the Silk Road Ensemble) on oud, earned her a MAP Fund award. The work was inspired by the real stories of Jewish refugees who fled to Shanghai from Europe in World War II and built new lives in China. Her work in television has included compositions for AMC’s Hell on Wheels and PBS’ web series The History of White People in America.

Hello Gold Mountain was premiered with the Chatterbird Ensemble at Vanderbilt University´s Ingram Hall in Nashville Tennessee. It was subsequently performed at Butler University with the Chatterbird Ensemble, at the National Gallery of Art with the Inscape Chamber Orchestra, at Lehigh University, with the Bellingham Symphony Orchestra. In the 2023-2024 season it will be performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the North Carolina Performing Arts Center and with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

In addition to her original compositions, Wu has collaborated with artists from many different disciplines and genres, ranging from Emmy-winning directors Pierce Freelon and Jon Halperin to Grammy-winning musicians Béla Fleck, Abigail Washburn and percussionist Billy Martin (Medeski-Martin-Wood) to avant-garde composers John Zorn and Fred Frith.

Wu has appeared in concerts and workshops at numerous universities and institutions around the world, including Princeton University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Chautauqua Institution, UNC Chapel Hill, UC Irvine, Vanderbilt University, the China Conservatory of Music, the Norwegian Academy of Music and the University of Los Andes of Colombia.

In a SOLO PROGRAM, Wu Fei will present a concert which is a rich combination from the traditional guzheng repertory from the ancient schools of Shangdong, Henan, Chaozhou regions and contemporary guzehng compositions. As a singer, she will also present some of the most famous Kunqu opera, Peking opera and Chinese folk music. As a composer, Wu Fei will play her original guzhen solo works that were inspired by traveling through the world looking at her new home, while missing her old traditions and as an improviser she performs new interpretations of her favorite American folk music on her ancient Chinese zither. Her solo concerts are pure magic, the public really is spell bound by her sensitivity, charisma, virtuosity!

Upcoming concerts include appearances with Chicago Presents!, Virtuosi Concerts in Winnipeg, the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango in México and a tour of Europe in March 2023, as well as concerts in the United States with Abigail Washburn. ,

Wu has released two solo recordings and two collaborative albums – one with classical guitarist Gyan Riley, and the other with singer-songwriter Abigail Washburn, released on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and listed among the “Best Albums of 2020” by The Times’ culture section. Each of Wu’s recordings exhibits her unique solo improvisational vocabulary, her knowledge of Chinese traditional and folk music, and the craft of her compositions for Western classical chamber orchestras.

She received her early musical education at the China Conservatory of Music and earned a master’s in composition at Mills College in California before immersing herself in New York’s downtown improvisation scene at venues including The Stone, where she has frequently performed and curated. A native of Beijing, Wu currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

September 2023

  • Wu Fei