Gao Hong with Pipa
Friends of MacPhail Performance

Asian Fusion: Gao Hong and Friends

Date: Thu Apr 13 2023

Time: 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

Location: Minneapolis

Tickets: $22.00

Asian Fusion: Gao Hong and Friends

Thursday, April 13

Tickets are $25 at the door, $22 General Admission and $20 for Students, Seniors and groups of ten or more.

MacPhail Center for Music is thrilled to welcome Gao Hong as she performs as part of ‘Asian Fusion’ with musicians Vân-Ánh Võ, Kadialy Kouyaté, Masayo Ishigure, and Leonard Jacome.

Performer Bios

Gao Hong, standing with Pipa
Gao Hong

Gao Hong graduated from Beijing’s elite Central Conservatory of Music. Since coming to the U.S., she has performed at the Lincoln Center Festival, Carnegie Hall, the San Francisco Jazz Festival, the Smithsonian, and at festivals in Paris, Caen, Milan, and Perth. She has presented concerti for the pipa with the Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Heidelberg Philharmonic, Buenos Aires Philharmonic, China National Traditional Orchestra, Louisville Orchestra, and Hawaii Symphony, among others. She was the first Chinese musician to play the National Anthem at an NBA basketball game when she did so on pipa for the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis.

Gao has received numerous top awards and honors in China and the U.S. In 2005 she became the first traditional musician to be awarded a prestigious Bush Artist Fellowship, and in 2019 she became the only musician in any genre to win five McKnight Artist Fellowships for Performing Musicians. As a Sally Award winner, Gao Hong was honored at the Ordway Center for her commitment to the arts. She is the author of the first pipa method book written in English that was published and distributed worldwide by Hal Leonard.

Two of Gao’s most recent recordings were awarded gold medals by the Global Music Awards in the Best Album and Best Instrumentals categories. One was with her late teacher, Lin Shicheng, and the other with her Gao Hong and Issam Rafea Duo. The Duo was also chosen out of over 3000 entries by indie star Phoebe Bridgers to appear on NPR’s Tiny Desk Top Shelf Contest #2 episode.

As a composer, Gao has received commissions from the Minnesota Orchestra, American Composers Forum, Minnesota Sinfonia, Kenwood Symphony Orchestra, Civic Orchestra of Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Jerome Foundation, Zeitgeist, Ragamala Dance Theater, Theater Mu, IFTPA, Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, The Cedar, SEMAC, and TPT-PBS.

In 2022, Mayor Melvin Carter of St. Paul proclaimed April 3, 2022 to be “Gao Hong Day in the City of St. Paul” in honor of her milestone concert at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts celebrating her “50 YEARS OF MAKING MUSIC WITH FRIENDS”. Several pieces from this concert were featured on “Performance Today” hosted by Fred Child.

Gao teaches at Carleton College where she is director of the Carleton Chinese Music Ensemble and Global music Ensemble. She is also Guest Professor at the Central Conservatory of Music, China Conservatory of Music, and Tianjin Conservatory of Music. She is a Board member for the American Composers Forum and Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, and is a Recording Academy Voting Member for the Grammys and an Advisor to the Board for the Academy’s Chicago Chapter. (

Masayo Ishigure

Masayo Ishigure seated beside Sawais
Masayo Ishigure

Masayo Ishigure became one of a small group of virtuoso disciples of the Sawais and successfully completed the 33rd Ikusei-kai program sponsored by NHK to foster and train aspiring artists in Japanese music. In 1988, Ms.Ishigure received a degree in Japanese Traditional Music from Takasaki Junior Arts College with a concentration on koto and shamisen.

Ms. Isigure moved to New York City in 1992 and has performed at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, BAM, Merkin Hall, Asia Society, Japan Society, Metropolitan Museum, and other venues in the New York City metropolitan area. She has been invited to perform at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, the Smithsonian Institute, and was a guest artist with the Seattle Symphony, Hartford Symphony, San Diego Symphony, New Haven Symphony Orchestra.

Masayo Ishigure has appeared in concerts for the World Music Institute, Japan Society, Music from Japan, the China Institute and has participated in music festivals in Japan, Thailand, Brazil, Holland, France, Germany, Mexico, Russia, Belarus, Jamaica, Hawaii and Alaska. Masayo Ishigure also accompanied several performances by New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Mr. Peter Boal. She has been featured in multiple television broadcasts some of which included music for CBS Master Works used during the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. She has also recorded koto music for use in several television commercials.

In 2005, Masayo Ishigure was a recording artist alongside Yitzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, and others on the Grammy Award-Winning soundtrack from the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha” (SAYURI) by John Williams.

Issam Rafea

*NOTE: Senegalese Kora player Kadialy Kouyate was originally one of the musicians scheduled to appear in this concert. Due to unexpected circumstances Kouyate is unable to participate. In his place, we are proud to welcome oud player Issam Rafea, a longtime collaborator with Gao Hong.

Issam Rafea

Issam Rafea is a Syrian musician, music director and composer, noted for his compositions and performances on the Arabic oud. Rafea was Chair of the Arabic Music Department at the High Institute of Music in Damascus and the principal conductor of the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music from 2003- 2013, as well as the co-founder for the contemporary Arabic music groups “Hewar” and “Twais Quartet.” Since then, Rafea has directed the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble at Northern Illinois University School of Music; became an artist-in-residence at Carleton College; presented workshops and performances across the globe; and collaborated with artists like Gao Hong, “Gorillaz”, Fareed Haque, the Syrian National Orchestra, and many more.

Leonard Jacome

Leonard Jacome standing with a Harp.
Leonard Jacome

Born in Rubio, Táchira state, Venezuela (July 5, 1981), Leonard Jacome is a multi-instrumentalist, arranger, composer and music producer with over 30 years of experience. He is one of the most virtuosic, prolific and successful harpists in the world and has devoted his career to the development of a contemporary identity for the Venezuelan Harp. He is the inventor of the Venezuelan Electric Harp that was manufactured by Camac-Harps of France, and has created new pedagogical learning strategies and his own unprecedented methods and techniques for playing the Latin American harp. For his solo performances at international harp festivals Jacome has finished in first place six times and has been featured in renowned harp competitions in Wales, Ireland, Austria, France, Paraguay, Colombia, Moscow, and London. His international tours have also included performances and lectures on the history of Venezuelan music in Japan, Malaysia, Sweden, Scotland, Russia, Ireland, Wales, England, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Cyprus, South Africa, Mozambique, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil, British Guiana and the United States. In October 2018, Harp Mestiza, his symphonic work for harp and orchestra, was premiered by the Malaysian Philharmonic at the prestigious theater “Dewan Philarmonik Petronas” in the Petronas Towers of Kuala Lumpur.

Jacome earned his Bachelor of Music with a focus on pedagogue in music education from UPEL – IPRGR (Experimental Pedagogical University Libertador) in Rubio,Venezuela. As a music director and audio-visual producer he has composed and arranged music in a multitude of genres including jazz, Latin music, world music, salsa, vallenato (Colombian Folk music), Colombian Venezuelan llanera music, fusion, commercial and others. Jacome is the creator and Head of the Venezuelan Harp Chair for the “El Sistema” of the National System of Orchestras in the Simón Bolívar Music Conservatory. He was musical manager for the National Folk Dance Company of Venezuela (2005 – 2009) and Principal Harpist for the artistic-musical cast of Venezuelan songwriter Reynaldo Armas (2006 – 2019). Jacome has also worked as a film actor and radio announcer/presenter.

Vân-Ánh Võ

Vân-Ánh Võ performs on the 16-string đàn tranh (zither)
Vân-Ánh Võ

A fearless musical explorer, Vân-Ánh Võ is an award-winning performer of the 16-string đàn tranh (zither) and an Emmy Award-winning composer who has collaborated with Kronos Quartet, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, and Yo-Yo Ma. In addition to her mastery of the đàn tranh, she also uses the monochord (đàn bầu), bamboo xylophone (đàn t’rung), traditional drums (trống) and many other instruments to create music that blends the wonderfully unique sounds of Vietnamese instruments with other genres, and fuses deeply rooted Vietnamese musical traditions with fresh new structures and compositions.

Coming from a family of musicians and beginning to study đàn tranh (16-string zither) from the age of four, Van-Anh graduated with distinction from the Vietnamese Academy of Music, where she later taught. In 1995, Vân-Ánh won the championship title in the Vietnam National Đàn Tranh Competition, along with the first prize for best solo performance of modern folk music. In Hanoi, Vân-Ánh was an ensemble member of Vietnam National Music Theatre as well as a member of the traditional music group Đồng Nội Ensemble, which she founded and directed. She has since performed in more than fourteen countries and recorded many broadcast programs in and outside of Vietnam.


This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative
appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage

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