Cellist Hai-Ye Ni was raised in China, first studying cello with her mother. She continued her studies at the Shanghai Conservatory, the San Francisco Conservatory (with Irene Sharp), Juilliard (with Joel Krosnick), and with William Pleeth. She quickly gained recognition after becoming the youngest winner ever of the Naumburg International Cello Competition, in 1991, which led to her New York debut recital at Alice Tully Hall. Numerous awards followed: the Sony ES Career Award in 1995; a unanimous first prize at the International Paulo Cello Competition in Finland in 1996; Silver Medal in the International Rostropovich competition in 1997; best performance of Tchaikovsky from the Tchaikovsky International Competition; and in 2001, the Avery Fisher Career Grant. Ni has performed with the Chicago Symphony and Christoph Eschenbach at Ravinia, the New York Chamber Symphony, the Finnish Radio Orchestra, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Houston Symphony, the Singapore Symphony, and the San Francisco Symphony. Other festivals she's participated in include the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival with Pinchas Zuckerman, the Marlboro Music Festival, Spoleto, and various festivals in Finland. In 1997, at Yo-Yo Ma's recommendation, she took over his U.S. tour to premiere Bright Sheng's cello concerto, Two Poems, which she also performed on the television program CBS Sunday Morning. She was a member of the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society II from 1997 to 2000. In 1998, Naxos issued her recital CD. In addition to teaching master classes, she was appointed principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic in 1999.