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Karen Han-Ottosson

About this Artist

Karen Han-Ottosson is an internationally renowned erhu virtuoso, composer and vocalist.  

Karen was the youngest person to ever receive a master’s degree in Performing Arts with honors from China’s best music academy, the Central Conservatory of Music. The academy’s awards include “Top Artist” and “First-Class Erhu Soloist.” 

The erhu is a two-string classical Chinese instrument that has all of the tonal qualities of the violin.  

As a child in China, Karen naturally gravitated toward her father’s instrument, the erhu. Under his guidance, she grew proficient in music, dance and song. She started playing the erhu at the age of six and in 1978, over a field of thousands of other applicants, she was selected for admittance to China’s renown Central Conservatory of Music. 

Enamored with the West and encouraged by Hollywood contracts, Karen moved to Los Angeles in 1988. Since her arrival, Disney, DreamWorks, Sony, Fox, Warner Brothers, Paramount Pictures as well as Netflix, Amazon, and Apple have all employed her talents. 

We have all heard Karen’s solo erhu in movies like The Joy Luck Club and The Last Emperor as well as numerous television scores. The Last Emperor won an Oscar for Best Original Music. There, her playing of the musical score was remarkable, not only for its intricacy, but also for the emotion it conveyed. She brought forth from her diminutive instrument a song of poignancy and power. 

Her major solo recording accomplishments include the Oscar-winning films The Last Emperor, The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, Detroit, The Passion of Christ, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Pursuit of Happyness, Mulan, Mulan 2, The Joy Luck Club, Anna and the King, Pirates of Caribbean: At World’s End, Kung Fu Panda (1, 2 & 3), Star Trek, Men in Black 3, 2012, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Pacific Rim, Monkey King, Transformers 4, Penguins of Madagascar, and the video games Minecraft, Riot, Call of Duty, and Disney MGM’s short film Mickey & Mouse and the recent Disney films Turning Red and Babylon, the latter of which will be released in December 2022. 

Her concert-hall appearances include Carnegie Hall, Canada’s Roy Thomson Hall, Paris Opera, the Hollywood Bowl, Germany Magdeburg Opera House, and Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre. 

She has worked with composers and conductors such as John Williams, Timo Chang, Bill Conti, Tan Dun, Christopher Franke, Michael Hall, James Horner, Rachel Portman, Fei Qiao, Carl St. Clair, David Benoit, Stanley Clarke, Chris Beck, Michael Giacchino, and A. R. Rahman. 

An active studio recording artist and Grammy voting member, Karen lives in Los Angeles. She is married to Swedish-born film producer and three-time Oscar-winner Paul Ottosson. The couple welcomed their son Theodore Ottosson in 2007.