The Pipa // East Meets West Along the Silk Road
Raise Your Voice
“Silkroad creates music that engages difference, sparking radical cultural collaboration and passion-driven learning for a more hopeful and inclusive world.” -Silkroad Ensemble
Yang Wei and Consuelo Sherba
Featured in two stunning performances, pipa virtuoso Yang Wei invites students to appreciate the beauty of this historic instrument with him, first with a solo performance inspired by a battle, then through a duet titled, “Crossings,” with violinist Consuelo Sherba. This second performance symbolizes the intercultural exchange of the ancient network of trade routes between China and western territories known as the Silk Road.


April 23, 2017


6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Music/Music Composition, English Language Arts (ELA), Geography, History/Social Studies

Experience the beauty of the pipa, a Chinese instrument over 2,000 years old, played by Yang Wei. Then, hear a musical collaboration between Wei and violinist Consuelo Sherba, representing the exchange between East and West on the ancient network of trade routes, the Silk Road. 

Additional resources invite students to do further research on  the pipa and other instruments featured in Yo Yo Ma’s Silkroad Orchestra. Suggestions also include research guidelines on the history of the Silk Road trade network, its array of cultural exchanges, economic impact, and subsequent impacts on societies, human migration, and a more globalized sense of cultural awareness. 

Video 1: Yang Wei’s Pipa Performance (7 minutes) 

Yang Wei takes listeners on a musical journey through his performance of a piece titled, “Ancient Battlefield.” His pipa, a pear-shaped Chinese string instrument, which dates back over 2,000 years, transports audiences to an epic battle scene of the imagination. 

Video 2: “Crossings” with Yang Wei and Consuelo Sherba (7 minutes) 

Symbolizing the centuries of intercultural exchange that occurred along the Silk Road’s vast networks, the musical duet of pipa and violin is a symphonic conversation that highlights the natural beauty of each instrument, whose origins stem from China and what is now known as Italy, respectively. Performed by pipa virtuoso Yang Wei, of the Silkroad Ensemble, and violinist Consuelo Sherba, of the Aurea Ensemble, this piece was crafted as a form of mutual cultural appreciation. A subsequent interview with the musicians elaborates on examples contemporary intercultural exchange amongst musicians from “East” and “West.” 

Artist Bios

Yang Wei is a celebrated virtuoso on the pipa, a Chinese string instrument with many frets. His music has been celebrated worldwide, and he has been a member of famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble. Wei’s own musical education began at age six in his native China. At 18, Wei performed with the National Shanghai Orchestra. He moved to the US in 1996 and has since done many musical collaborations and educational workshops across the US. 

Consuelo Sherba is the Artistic Director of the Aurea Ensemble, which explores music and spoken word. As a violist and music educator, she has performed with the RI Philharmonic, Vermont Symphony, Simon Sinfonietta, Boston Virtuosi, to name a few of her many musical collaborations.

FirstWorks Virtual Learning Series: Yang Wei
"Crossings" with Yang Wei and Consuelo Sherba

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