Cellist Sophie Shao, winner of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant and top prizes at the Rostropovich and Tchaikovsky competitions, is a versatile and passionate artist whose performances the New York Times has noted as “eloquent, powerful” and the Washington Post called “deeply satisfying.” 

Shao has appeared as soloist to critical acclaim throughout the United States: the Smith Center in Las Vegas, Lied Center in Lincoln, Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa, California, the Palladium in Carmel, Indiana, the Walter Reade Theater and Rose Studio at Lincoln Center. Last season she performed the UK premiere of Howard Shore’s concerto “Mythic Gardens” with Keith Lockhart and the BBC Concert Orchestra at the Watford Colosseum in Watford, England and with Ludwig Wicki and the 21st Century Orchestra at the KKL in Lucerne, Switzerland. Other past concerto performances include Haydn and Elgar Concerti with Lockhart and the BBC Concert Orchestra, Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with Hans Graf and the Houston Symphony, Richard Wilson’s “The Cello Has Many Secrets” with the American Symphony Orchestra, and has returned with the ASO to perform Saint-Saens’s “La muse et la poete” at the Bard Music Festival. 

Ms. Shao has given recitals in Suntory Hall in Tokyo, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Middlebury College, Walter Reade Theater and Rose Studio in Lincoln Center, the complete Bach Suites at Union College and in New York City. Her dedication to chamber music has conceived her popular “Sophie Shao and Friends” groups which have toured from Brattleboro, VT to Sedona, AZ, while other exciting collaborations include Tan Dun’s Ghost Opera with Cho-Liang Lin, performances with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Chamber Music Northwest, and Music Mountain (with the Shanghai Quartet), among many other presenters across the country. She is a frequent guest at many leading festivals around the country including Caramoor, Chamber Music Northwest, Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, Music from Angel Fire, the Bard Festival, and Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and was a member of Chamber Music Society Two, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s program for emerging young artists. 

Ms. Shao’s recordings include the Complete Bach Suites to be available this season, Andre Previn’s Reflections for Cello and English Horn and Orchestra on EMI Classics, Richard Wilson’s Diablerie and Brash Attacks and Barbara White’s My Barn Having Burned to the Ground, I Can Now See the Moon on Albany Records, Howard Shore’s original score for the movie The Betrayal on Howe Records, and the music of George Tsontakis on Koch Records. Her performance of Howard Shore’s “Mythic Gardens” has just been released along with Lang Lang’s performance of “Ruins and Memory” on Sony Classical. 
A native of Houston, Texas, Ms. Shao began playing the cello at age six, and was a student of Shirley Trepel, former principal cellist of the Houston Symphony.  At age thirteen she enrolled at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, studying cello with David Soyer. After graduating from the Curtis Institute, she continued her cello studies with Aldo Parisot at Yale University, receiving a B.A. in Religious Studies from Yale College and an M.M. from the Yale School of Music, where she was enrolled as a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow.  She is on the faculty of Vassar College and plays on a cello made by Honore Derazey from 1855 once owned by Pablo Casals.

Latest Updates

24 May 2017
He may be best known as having written scores for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, and those for almost all of David Cronenberg’s films, but Howard Shore (b1946) also has a sizeable output of works for the stage (notably his opera The F...
24 May 2017
Marketing materials bill this Sony release as containing "two concerti in celebration of Chopin's music" by Howard Shore, best known for the soundtrack to The Lord of the Rings films. Actually, only the opening Ruin & Memory concerto for piano and...
27 Jan 2017
9 Dec 2016
Cellist Sophie Shao returns for her ninth consecutive appearance on the Middlebury College Performing Arts Series at 3 p.m. this Sunday, Dec. 4 at the Mahaney Center for the Arts. Shao is always an audience favorite, and she must have an endless s...
9 Dec 2016
3 p.m. Sunday, cellist Sophie Shao returns for her ninth-consecutive Middlebury College Performing Arts Series appearance, joined by violinist Jennifer Frautschi, violist Dimitri Murrath and pianist Gloria Chien, Robison Hall, Mahaney Center for t...
23 Apr 2012
Interchanging Idioms
Described by the New York Times as “part boot camp for the brain, part spa for the spirit,” the world-renowned Bard Music Festival in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, returns for its 23rd annual season, filling the last two weekends of Bard Summer...


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Cellist Sophie Shao Captivates By Monique Santoso March 7, 2018 In the Robison Hall at the Kevin P. Mahaney ’84 Center for the Arts on Wednesday Feb. 28, a burgeoning audience waited impatiently for cellist Sophie Shao and her extraordinarily talented friends. Shao’s group, comprised of violinists Nikki Chooi and Carmit Zori, violist Paul Neubauer and pianist Orion Weiss, took the stage with their respective instruments as the hall applauded. Sans introduction, the group took their place and harmoniously began with the soft tones of Joseph Haydn, “Trio in E-flat Major, Hob XV:29” and the audience slowly fell into a musical trance. Shao and her friends Chooi and Weiss, delivered a powerful rendition of Haydn’s trio with rhythmic yet sharp and intense notes to exude a work full of character and humor. Violinist Chooi was most expressive, his controlled poise enchanting the audience as he moved to the strings of his violin. The audience smiled in delight, most of them closed-eyed throughout the performance, as the increasingly elaborate piece moved further and further from the mock-simplicity of the original. As the music shifted down from major third to B major, the audience relaxed from the calm energy of the music. As the song drew to a close and the next began, Zori and Neubauer took the stage for the “Piano Quintet, H.49” by Frank Bridge. The piece was a muscular, four-movement work, with a huge piano part, brim full of musical ideas, but rather unwieldy and certainly lacking the refinement and elegance of Bridge’s mature chamber works. This performance was a four-part series with musical ingenuity, brisk tempo and staccato tunes that included a cello-piano duet which Shao and Weiss carried out gracefully. According to audience feedback, it was the sort of music that could “heal a broken soul.” The flowing piece was contrasted with a quick ending that earned resounding applause from the audience for its zest and marvelous execution. Unlike other artists who describe the songs, impact and meaning to the audience, Shao and her friends did not make any interpretations at the start of any piece. Although unusual, I enjoyed the technique as it let the music mean whatever the listener thought. This mysterious allure was perhaps most reflected in the group’s final performance: Piano Quintet No.2, Op.81 by Czech composer Antonín Dvorák. The piano was the main instrument in the theme and Weiss’ fingers slid and glided across the Steinway with fantastic precision. Accompaniment by the strings was minimal and transparent through the second movement and as the pieces drew to a close, the tempo picked up once more, rushing to an exuberant close. he audience resounded in a much deserved standing ovation. Having played at the college for the 13th time, it is without doubt that Shao is a favorite among the Middlebury community. Series Director Allison Coyne Carroll described her as “always being a pleasure to work with, a consummate musician, and a special friend to the series.” Through the multiple reverberating standing ovations Shao and her friends receive annually, it is without question that we will see her grace Robison Hall again in the future.

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