Esther Shuyue Cao is a fourth-generation inheritor of the intangible cultural heritage of performing Cao-style Chinese zither. She is also a composer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist with longstanding interests in combing Chinese and Western traditions in her music and transcending cultural boundaries.
She was born into a musical family. Her grandmother and mother were both professional Guzheng (a traditional Chinese zither) performers. She started learning Guzheng from her grandmother at the early age of four; later on, she also learned other Chinese traditional instruments: Erhu (fiddle), Pipa (lute), Hulusi (cucurbit flute), Chinese folk singing, and piano.
Esther studied Chinese traditional-instrument performance in National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts. She obtained her bachelor degree in composition from Wichita State University and a Master of Music degree from Mannes College (NYC). She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at The Hartt School.
As a performer, she has played in the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York, and other chamber ensembles. As a composer, San Xia Chinese Traditional Orchestra and Shenzhen Arts School have invited her to serve as a long-term residency. Her music has been featured in the United States, China, Ireland, etc. Esther was awarded as a visiting professor from Yayue Culture & Fine Art Center, and Cheng Mei School of Arts in Hubei, China. Since 2018, She has become a member of a panel of judges in the China Nationalities Orchestra Society (CNOS) for Chinese traditional instruments evaluation.
As an educator, Cao is on the faculty at The Hartt School Community Division at The University of Hartford where she teaches a full program The Chinese Music Tradition. She was awarded as a visiting professor from Yayue Culture & Fine Art Center, and Cheng Mei School of Arts in Hubei, China. Since 2018, She has become a member of a panel of judges in the China Nationalities Orchestra Society (CNOS) for Chinese traditional instruments evaluation.
Chinese traditional music specialist and faculty in The Chinese Music Tradition Program at The Hartt School Community Division;
Music Composition Flashback won International Alliance for Women in Music 2018 Annual Concert Competition winner;
Music Composition The Legend of Mulan won The Chelsea Symphony Composition Competition 2017-2018 finalist;
Music Composition The Dream of Jiangli won Coppa Jiang Li Music Composition Competition first prize in 2018;
The receiver of Fellowship Award from The Hartt School - University of Hartford (2017-2018);
Earned Outstanding Composer and Coach for the Elderly and Disable Citizens Concert Series, CT (2017-2018);
The receiver of The Hartt School Talent Award from the University of Hartford (2016-2018);
Music Composition Sandglass won Boston Music Viva Emerging Composers Concert 2017 Call for Scores;
Selected composer from Atlantic Music Festival (2015);
Selected composer from The 30th Anniversary of June In Buffalo Music Composition Festival (2015);
Music Composition Seven Deadly Sins won Honorable Mention in The First Annual Composition Competition for University of Maryland Daraja Woodwind Quintet Fellowship;
The receiver of Merit Award for Music Composition from Mannes College - The New School of Music (2014-2016)