BANJO JOINS GUZHENG IN NEW CONCERT SERIES; Princeton University Concerts launches new “Crossroads” series, drawing together musicians and music from around the globe

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Princeton University Concerts launches new “Crossroads” series,

 drawing together musicians and music from around the globe.


In “Beijing Meets Banjo,” banjo virtuoso Abigail Washburn and Chinese guzheng rock star Wu Fei cross continents to find commonalities.


Their visit also includes a public talk at the Princeton University Library, and a Live Music Meditation.


A visit by banjo star Abigail Washburn and Chinese guzheng master Wu Fei opens Princeton University Concerts’ brand new “Crossroads” series. Launching with a free Public Talk between the two musicians and Princeton University Department of Music Professor Dan Trueman at the Princeton Public Library on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 at 7PM and followed by a Live Music Meditation on Thursday, November 8, 2018 at 12:30PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall also free and open to all.  The duo culminates their stay with a concert on Thursday, November 8, 2018 at 7:30PM also in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall.



It might feel a bit strange to use the words “rockstar” and “guzheng” in the same sentence, but if anyone can take this 2,000-year-old Chinese stringed instrument and crank it up to 11, it would be Wu Fei. She is single-handedly responsible for bringing this once-elitist court instrument out of the palaces of the Qin dynasty and into the streets, using it in entirely unexpected and captivating ways. And matching her string for string and note for note is Abigail Washburn, a banjo virtuoso (and wife of fellow picker Béla Fleck) and TED Fellow who happens to also be fluent in both the language and culture of China. Together, these two remarkable musicians come together for an evening of musical storytelling that crosses continents to find commonalities. As described by singer-songwriter Chris Davis,


“Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn’s duo is a musical resolution to their specific and differing issues about home. For Fei, it means an opportunity to assimilate elements of her musical argot—Chinese classical, folk and opera—into song forms while leaving room for the free associative tendencies she developed in the practice of free improvisation. In short, it marks a return to a thrown-out rule book with a changed perspective. For Abigail, it means musical collaboration with a sister from another Mister who speaks all the same languages. Someone with whom she can create brave, intimate music. For the listener, it means a gift of unhurried music drawn freely from streams of raised consciousness, waves which met from halfway across the world to find they shared the same shake.”


The new Crossroads series aims to distill chamber music to its purest and most elemental form, highlighting music’s steadfast intimacy and uncanny capacity to tell stories and spark new conversations. In celebration of Princeton University Concerts’ 125th anniversary this season, this series is a tribute to all that “chamber music” can encompass. Other concerts on this series this season include singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane’s 8980: Book of Travelers, a song cycle giving voice to stories gathered on an 8,890-mile Amtrack journey across the country, and a duo performance by mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital and bassist Omer Avital. More information is available at



A brand-new program of public talks with artists on Princeton University Concerts’ Crossroads Series provides a setting in which the public can engage in new conversations sparked by musical storytelling. Get to know the musicians and hear about their relationship to the music that they will perform in these hour-long, free and unticketed public talks.



Experience world-class music more personally than ever before during short meditations to live music performed by artists on the Princeton University Concerts season, guided by Princeton University Associate Dean of Religious Life Matthew Weiner. Free and open to all, no experience necessary.



Tickets for the concert are $30 General/$10 students, available at, or by calling 609-258-9220. Both the Public Talk at the Princeton Public Library and the Live Music Meditation are free and unticketed



Wu Fei is a native of Beijing and a current Nashville resident. She is a classically trained composer, master of the guzheng — the 21-string Chinese zither, and a vocalist. She plays in the guzheng’s vernacular — a musical language which is at least 2,000 years old, and mixes Western classical and Chinese traditions with a contemporary, idiosyncratic sound. Her early music education was at the China Conservatory of Music, but did her Master’s at Mills College (California) and later immersed herself in the New York City downtown improvisation scene at venues like The Stone, where Fei has frequently performed and curated. Wu Fei composes for choir, string quartet, chamber ensemble, Balinese gamelan, and orchestra; her commissions range from a composition for Percussions Claviers de Lyon that premiered in the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing to live performances in Paris and Tokyo for luxury brand Hermès. Currently, Wu Fei is the composer-in-residence for Chatterbird Ensemble. She has also been commissioned by Intersection Ensemble and individual soloists globally.


If American old-time music is about taking earlier, simpler ways of life and music-making as one’s model, Abigail Washburn has proven herself to be a bracing revelation to that tradition. She — a singing, songwriting, Illinois-born, Nashville-based clawhammer banjo player — is every bit as interested in the present and the future as she is in the past, and every bit as attuned to the global as she is to the local. Abigail pairs venerable folk elements with far-flung sounds, and the results feel both strangely familiar and unlike anything anybody’s ever heard before. One fateful day 11 years ago, Washburn was miraculously offered a record deal in the halls of a bluegrass convention in Kentucky which changed her trajectory from becoming a lawyer in China to a traveling folk musician.  Since then, Abigail has been recording and touring a continuous stream of music.  Her music ranges from the “all-g’earl” string band sound of Uncle Earl to her bi-lingual solo release Song of the Traveling Daughter (2005), to the mind-bending “chamber roots” sound of the Sparrow Quartet, to the rhythms, sounds and stories of Afterquake, her fundraiser CD for the Sichuan earthquake victims.  Her most recent release, Echo in the Valley (2017), was recorded with her husband, 15-time Grammy award winning banjo virtuoso, Béla Fleck. Echo in the Valley is the follow up to Béla and Abigail’s acclaimed, self-titled debut that earned the 2016 Grammy for Best Folk Album. Currently, Abigail and Béla are touring the world with their growing little boy, Juno, and welcomed their newborn son, Theodore Wilder, in June.





Abigail Washburn, banjo | Wu Fei, guzheng

PUBLIC TALK: Wednesday, November 7, 2018 at 7:00PM at the Princeton Public Library (65 Witherspoon St) with Department of Music Professor Dan Trueman
LIVE MUSIC MEDITATION: Thursday, November 8, 2018 at 12:30PM at Richardson Auditorium
CONCERT: Thursday, November 8, 2018 at 7:30PM at Richardson Auditorium
TICKETS: Concert tickets are $30 General/$10 Students. Tickets are available online at, by phone at 609-258-9220, or in person two hours prior to the concert at the Richardson Auditorium Box Office. Both the public talk and Live Music Meditation are free and unticketed.
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