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, Võ graduated with distinction from the Vietnamese Academy of Music, where she later taught. In 1995, Võ 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, Võ 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.
Since settling in San Francisco’s Bay Area in 2001, Võ has collaborated with musicians across different music genres to create new works, bringing Vietnamese traditional music to a wider audience. She has presented her music at Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center (2012, 2014, 2016), Lincoln Center, NPR, Houston Grand Opera, Yerba Buena Performing Arts Center, UK WOMAD Festival and London Olympic Games 2012 Music Festival. Võ has been a composer, collaborator and guest soloist with Kronos Quartet, Yo-Yo Ma, Southwest Chamber Music, Oakland Symphony, Monterey Symphony, Golden State Symphony, Apollo Chamber Players, Flyaway Productions for aerial dance works, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, jazz and rap artists and other World Music artists. Additionally, she co-composed and arranged the Oscar®-nominated and Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner for Best Documentary, Daughter from Danang (2002), the Emmy® Award-winning film and soundtrack for Bolinao 52 (2008), and Best Documentary and Audience Favorite winner A Village Called Versailles (2009).
After taking on an integral role in Kronos Quartet’s theatrical production All Clear in 2012, Võ premiered her first multi-media production as Artistic Director, composer and performer with Odyssey at the Kennedy Center in 2016. Since then, she has premiered Songs of Strength at Cal Performances, UC Berkeley in March 2021, and the first part of Mekong trilogy production, Mekong: SOUL, commissioned by Kennedy Center in 2021.
Her productions are unique in that they often include a community component leading up to her performances, including community workshops that are meant to further engage participants in the topic that has inspired Võ in the creation of these productions. Under President Obama's administration, Võ was the first Vietnamese artist to perform at the White House and received the Artist Laureate Award for her community contributions through the arts. Võ has also received project awards and support from Creative Work Fund, Center for Cultural Innovations, Alliance for California Traditional Arts, City of San Jose, New Music USA, Mid Atlantic Foundation, Chamber Music America (for residency work), Zellerbach Family Foundation, California Art Council, San Francisco Commissions and the Haas Fund.