Yiheng Yvonne Wu is a composer and interdisciplinary artist whose work ranges from conventionally notated chamber pieces to staged experimental works. Her compositions investigate poetic and physical qualities of instrumental sounds, juxtaposing sonic characters through unconventional musical forms. Performer personas take prominence on stage through pieces that feature guided improvisations, creating room for musicians to interact and respond to each other. Recent interdisciplinary projects have incorporated American Sign Language, poetry, dance/movement, art installation, and video.
Wu has received commissions from the La Jolla Symphony, Arraymusic, Michael Mizrahi and the Wisconsin Music Teachers Association, Figmentum, the Bardin-Niskala Duo, and Bent Frequency, among others. Her music has been performed by MIVOS string quartet, a.pe.ri.od.ic, Black Sheep Contemporary Ensemble, the University of Washington Percussion Ensemble, and Ensemble SurPlus and featured in the WasteLAnd concert series, the University of Tennessee Contemporary Music Festival, New Music on the Bayou, SoundSCAPE Festival, and Aspen Music Festival. Collaborators have included Jennifer Torrence, Ayako Kato, Christopher Clarino, Bonnie Whiting, Jessica Aszodi, Rachel Beetz, Dustin Donahue, and Todd Moellenberg. “Dreams of a Young Piano,” for solo piano with chamber ensemble, was awarded the 2018 Judith Lang Zaimont Prize by the International Alliance for Women in Music. Her string quartet “Utterance," released on Carrier Records, won the 5th Mivos/Kanter String Quartet Composition Prize.
As Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (beginning Fall 2022) and previously at Beloit College, Wu teaches courses in composition/songwriting, music theory, music technology, and interdisciplinary arts. She has supported students working across many musical genres, including rock, hip hop, folk, indie, pop, game music, gospel, jazz, and classical. As founder and director of the InterArts Ensemble at Beloit College, she brought together musicians, visual artists, videographers, writers, and dancers to collaborate on original performances and installations.
As an educator, equity and antiracism have been central to Wu’s work. She was a co-organizer of Black Lives Matter Beloit, and she co-led antiracism trainings for studetnts, faculty, and staff at Beloit College. At UCCS, she is leading the Music program’s redesign of the four-semester music theory sequence with a focus on making music theory inclusive of many musical styles and relevant to students’ musical lives. In her composition/songwriting courses, she welcomes students working in all genres and mediums. She guides students to build a mutually collaborative and supportive classroom community.
Born in Taiwan, Wu emigrated to the US just before her third birthday and grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia. There her family was befriended by Ethel Thomson, a retired school teacher, who volunteered as her piano teacher for several years. Other life-changing mentors have included Sophia Serghi, Carey Bagdassarian, Michael Friedmann, and Steven Takasugi. Influential composition teachers have included John Halle, Kathryn Alexander, and Katharina Rosenberger.