Bio

An award-win­ning and clas­si­cal­ly trained pipa vir­tu­oso, Shen­shen Zhang is cel­e­brat­ed for her ele­gant ren­di­tions and del­i­cate lyri­cal inter­pre­ta­tions of tra­di­tion­al Chi­nese pipa reper­toires, earn­ing recog­ni­tion in both Asia and Amer­i­ca. Through­out her career, she has par­tic­i­pat­ed in numer­ous pre­mieres and had the hon­or of per­form­ing with excep­tion­al inter­na­tion­al artists, includ­ing the San Fran­cis­co Sym­pho­ny, Los Ange­les Cham­ber Orches­tra, Hous­ton Grand Opera, Sym­pho­ny San Jose, among oth­ers. Her solo album, SERENITY, released in 2019, show­cas­es a col­lec­tion of tra­di­tion­al pipa mas­ter­pieces, while her orig­i­nal com­po­si­tions for the pipa duet album SHENS­duo released in 2024 under the Inno­va label, fea­ture a cap­ti­vat­ing world music fusion. Shen­shen also had the priv­i­lege of record­ing the pipa sound sam­ple library for Apple’s Garage­Band App in 2016. Hold­ing a B.A. in Per­for­mance from the Cen­tral Con­ser­va­to­ry of Music in Bei­jing and an M.A. in Musi­col­o­gy from Xia­men Uni­ver­si­ty, Shen­shen also is the founder of Jade Ensem­ble, ded­i­cat­ed to mul­ti­cul­tur­al music. Born in Wen­zhou, Chi­na, she cur­rent­ly resides in Sil­i­con Val­ley, California.

(Lat­est edit ver­sion, Feb­ru­ary, 2024)

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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. She also has pre­miered works for Cham­ber opera, Court­side, writ­ten by Bay Area com­pos­er Jack Per­la, and pro­duced by Hous­ton Grand Opera (Pre­miere, Feb­ru­ary 2011, Hous­ton); 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, July 2010, Asian Arts Muse­um, San Fran­cis­co); Cham­ber ensem­ble com­po­si­tion, Pre­lude K2 Play com­posed by Jim Fran­cis­co (Pre­miere, Octo­ber 2009, Los Gatos); 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; Jan­u­ary 2008, 30th Anniver­sary Nation­al Con­fer­ence Cham­ber Music Amer­i­ca, New York); Con­tem­po­rary bal­let, Long Riv­er High Sky, com­posed by Miguel Fras­coni, with 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 (2016), and pipa and cel­lo duet con­cert (2017) at San­ta Clara Uni­ver­si­ty. She has been hon­ored to record the Pipa sound sam­ples library of 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 pro­gram Adven­ture in Music (AIM) Edu­ca­tion­al Pro­gram (2014, 2011,2008), Sym­pho­ny San Jose ArtSPARK pro­gram (2011) and Dis­ney­land Lunar Year Cel­e­bra­tions (2020, 2019).

Her solo album, SERENITY, is a tra­di­tion­al pipa mas­ter­pieces col­lec­tion works, has released in Jan­u­ary 16, 2019.Th

Her duet album, SHENS­duo, released under the Inno­va label in Feb. 2024, show­cas­es eight orig­i­nal pipa duet works com­posed and per­formed by Shen­shen Zhang and Sophia Shen. It is cur­rent­ly acces­si­ble on var­i­ous stream­ing plat­forms, includ­ing Apple Music, Spo­ti­fy, and the iTunes Store.

Since 2022, Ms. Zhang has joined in Music Depart­ment at San­ta Clara Uni­ver­si­ty as an adjunct instruc­tor. She also has her own pipa stu­dio in Sil­i­con Val­ley where she teach­es clas­si­cal Chi­nese music to a diverse stu­dent pop­u­la­tion. From 2015–2017, Ms. Zhang has taught in Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty as music instruc­tor and conductor. 

In recent years, Shen­shen has been explor­ing a new musi­cal con­ver­sa­tion with her ongo­ing live impro­vi­sa­tions and col­lab­o­ra­tion with one of the pio­neer­ing world music ensem­bles, Ancient Future, and world music artists group Com­mon Sounds Ensem­ble. She also was select­ed to the Bay Area Pilot pro­gram by Amer­i­can Com­posers Forum, and her orig­i­nal com­po­si­tion will be released ear­ly Spring in 2024 under Inno­va record­ing label. 

(Lat­est edit ver­sion, June, 2022)

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