Shanghai native Ann Yao studied the lute-like pipa with her grandfather before embarking at age 10 on a life-long study of the zheng, a five-foot long, 21-stringed, horizontal, plucked zither that is among China’s oldest-known instruments. Ann’s aunt and uncle taught her the many regional styles that define the zheng repertoire; she also learned a wide selection of China’s folk and theatrical genres from the many traditional musicians who frequented her grandfather’s house. Ann continued to study zheng at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and upon graduation, joined Beijing’s Central National Music Ensemble.
Ann Yao moved to the United States in 1985; she performs and teaches in Florida, and was the recipient of the prestigious Florida Folk Heritage Award in 2009. She is also a longtime member of Music from China, an innovative New York City-based ensemble known for contemporary arrangements of traditional material. Her trio features two other musicians from this group: Guowei Wang, master of the erhu, a two-stringed fiddle, and Yihan Chen, an internationally noted player of the four-stringed pipa. Together, these three virtuosic musicians raise traditional Chinese string music to new heights of skill and beauty.