On Wednesday, August 19, 2020, more than 75 attendees gathered over livestream to attend the webinar, “Blending Cultures Through Music: An Interview with World-Renowned Pipa Master Gao Hong.” In a lively discussion facilitated by Qiuxia Welch, training program specialist at the China Center, Professor Gao Hong guided the audience through an overview of the pipa instrument and its history, basics of pipa playing, and her own journey of building cultural bridges through music. Gus Holley, a former student of Gao Hong, also joined to share his experience studying under Professor Gao at Carlton, including traveling to China with the Chinese Music Ensemble, and how he discovered his passion for the pipa, Chinese culture, and Chinese music.

Professor Gao Hong first came to the United States in 1994 for a musical tour. When she discovered that the pipa was relatively unknown in the U.S., she resolved to stay in the United States to share her love of the pipa and traditional Chinese music. Since then, she has collaborated with musicians from around the world. More recently, she has released two CD’s in collaboration with Issam Rafea, an award-winning oud player from Syria, with whom she creates unique, improvised musical works.

In the Q&A session, Professor Gao answered questions from attendees about pipa playing technique, how traditional Chinese music differs from Arabic music, and the similarities between Chinese pipa music and jazz and blues traditions. Meredith McQuaid, associate vice president and dean of international programs at the University of Minnesota, delivered closing remarks.

Learn more about Gao Hong’s music and her musical journey on her website.

Watch a recording of the webinar


About the Speaker

Gao Hong playing the pipa

Gao Hong graduated from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing where she studied with pipa master Lin Shicheng. She has received numerous awards and honors. In 2005, Gao Hong became the first traditional musician to be awarded the prestigious Bush Artist Fellowship, and in 2019 she became the only musician in any genre to win five McKnight Artist Fellowships for Performing Musicians.

She has performed throughout Europe, Australia, Argentina, Japan, Hong Kong, China, and the United States, and has participated in the Lincoln Center Festival and San Francisco Jazz Festival, and in international festivals in Paris, Caen, Milan, and Perth. She has performed countless U.S. and world premieres of pipa concerti with organizations such as the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Heidelberg Philharmonic, Buenos Aires Philharmonic, Louisville Orchestra, Hawaii Symphony, Pasadena Symphony, China Central National Orchestra, Guangdong National Orchestra, and the Women’s Philharmonic, among others. In 2017, she became the first Chinese musician to play the national anthem at a Minnesota Timberwolves NBA game at Target Center in Minneapolis.

In 2016, Gao Hong completed the first pipa method book ever written in English and had it published by Hal Leonard. She teaches Chinese musical instruments and directs the Carleton Chinese Music Ensemble and the Global Music Ensemble at Carleton College in Minnesota. She is also Guest Professor at the Central Conservatory of Music, China Conservatory of Music, Tianjin Conservatory of Music, and Hebei Provincial School for the Arts in China. She is also a member of the American Composer Forum’s and Minnesota Citizens for the Arts’ board directors.