The zither is a stringed instrument known around the world in various incarnations and names. The Chinese zither, guzheng, is the ancestor of several Asian zither instruments in Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and other Asian countries. There it was adopted and evolved into its own distinctive shape and manner of playing reflecting each country's unique style. The guzheng was introduced to Japan in the 6th-7th century, in which the instrument evolved into the Japanese koto.
Journey with us through the musical history of the zither in China and Japan, its influence in society and culture, and learn about the distinctive sounds and playing style from each country demonstrated by Mrs. Ann Yao on the guzheng and Mrs. Yoshiko Carlton on the koto. The finale of this educational journey will be a duet performed by Mrs. Yao and Mrs. Carlton.
A native of Shanghai, Ann Yao graduated from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music studying the guzheng. She was the principal zheng player at the Central Traditional Music Ensemble of Beijing before moving to the U.S. in 1984. She has worked as a zheng soloist with many prestigious music groups, artists, and composers, including Music from China, Brooklyn Philarmonic Orchestra, New Music Consort, Yo-yo Ma, and many others.
Born in Kagoshima, Japan, Yoshiko Carlton began her koto training at the age of nine. She has studied under two prestigious koto players, including Kyoko Okamoto, founder of the Washington Toho Koto Society and Brian Yamakoshi the renowned 25 string koto player. She has performed at various venues and worked with numerous musicians across musical genres. She is the founder of the Florida Koto group, Friends of Koto, and one of the founding members of Fushu Daiko Japanese taiko drumming ensemble.