Gao Hong awarded prestigious Sally Award by the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

September 19, 2018

Gao Hong, director of Carleton College’s award-winning Chinese Music and Global Music Ensembles and senior instructor in Chinese musical instruments, is the recipient of a prestigious Sally Award from the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. A master pipa (the Chinese lute) player, Gao Hong is revered around the world as a performer and composer.

Gao will be honored at the 26th annual Sally Awards ceremony on Monday, October 15 at the Ordway Center for the Arts in St. Paul. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the ceremony begins at 7:30 p.m.

Sally Awards honor extraordinary achievement in five categories: arts access, arts learning, commitment, initiative, and social impact. Gao is this year’s winner in the commitment category; the winner of each category will receive an award along with a $1,000 prize.

Other winners this year are the Washburn High School (Minneapolis) Blackbox Acting Program (arts access), the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop (arts learning), Minneapolis-based dancer Maia Maiden (initiative), and St. Paul-based Arab American arts organization Mizna (social impact).

Celebrating Minnesota’s commitment to the arts, the Sally Awards are named for Sally Ordway Irvine, the driving force behind the creation of the St. Paul’s Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in 1985. The Sally Awards recognize and pay tribute to the contributions and accomplishments of artists, educators, volunteers, philanthropists, and leaders who strengthen and enrich the stage of Minnesota with their commitment to the arts and arts education.

A Chinese musical prodigy and master of the Chinese pipa, Gao began her career as a professional musician at age 12. She graduated with honors from China’s premier music school, the Central Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Lin Shicheng. Gao has received numerous top awards in both China and the U.S., including 1st Prize in the Hebei Professional Young Music Performers Competition and an International Art Cup (Beijing). In 2005 she became the first traditional musician to be awarded the prestigious Bush Artist Fellowship and in 2012 she became the first musician in any genre to win four McKnight Artist Fellowships for Performing Musicians.

She has performed in Europe, Asia, South America, North America, and Australia in solo concerts and with symphony orchestras, jazz musicians, and musicians from other cultures. She has appeared at major venues and festivals worldwide, including the Lincoln Center Festival, Carnegie Hall, the International Festival of Perth, and the Festival de Teatro d’Europa in Milan. 

As a composer, Gao has received commissions from the American Composers Forum, Walker Art Center, Jerome Foundation, Zeitgeist, Ragamala Music and Dance Theater, Twin Cities Public Television, and many others. She has released numerous musical recordings, including 2018’s critically-acclaimed CD, “Life As Is: The Blending of Ancient Souls from Syria and China,” with fellow musician Issam Rafea. 

Committed to sharing the Chinese tradition of the pipa with diverse communities, Gao has presented educational programs and lectures at schools and colleges across Minnesota and the nation for many years. In addition to her work at Carleton College, Gao is a guest professor at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing and the Tianjin Conservatory of Music in China. Learn more on Gao Hong’s website.

The awards ceremony is free and open to the public but space is limited. Reserve seats online or by calling (651) 224-4222. The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts is located at 345 Washington Street in St. Paul, Minnesota.