Hailed by Gramophone as “an artist of commanding and poetic personality” and described as “staggeringly virtuosic” by The Strad, violist Melia Watras (meliawatras.com) has distinguished herself as one of her instrument’s leading voices. As a soloist, chamber musician and recording artist, Watras has championed the works of living composers throughout her career. She has commissioned, premiered and recorded numerous new compositions, while appearing at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall, and Alice Tully Hall. Recent and upcoming highlights include the European premiere (aired live by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation) of Pulitzer Prize-winner Shulamit Ran’s Perfect Storm, a piece that was written for Watras, and collaborations with violists Atar Arad and Garth Knox.
Watras’s expanding discography has garnered considerable attention and praise from the media. The Seattle Times named her most recently released CD, Short Stories, a Critics’ Pick, and marveled at her “velocity that seems beyond the reach of human fingers.” Prestidigitation, which features world premiere recordings of five works written especially for Watras was described by Strings as “astounding, and both challenging and addictive to listen to.” Of her debut solo CD, Viola Solo, Strings remarked, “Watras is a young player in possession of stunning virtuosic talent and deserving of the growing acclaim,” while The Strad called her “excellent” and “authoritative.” For the CD, Watras adapted John Corigliano’s Fancy on a Bach Air for viola. Her edition of this work is published by G. Schirmer, Inc.
As co-founder of the Corigliano Quartet, Watras has concertized throughout the United States and abroad; recorded for Naxos, Albany, Bayer, CRI, Riax, and Aguava; and appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered and Performance Today as well as WFMT-Chicago’s Live from Studio One. The ensemble’s Naxos label CD was named one of the Ten Best Classical Recordings of the Year by The New Yorker. The quartet’s awards include the Grand Prize at the Fischoff Competition and the ASCAP/CMA Award for Adventurous Programming. As a member of Open End, an ensemble specializing in new music and improvisation, Watras has performed in France, Denmark and the United States and has recorded for Albany Records.
A versatile performer, Watras has enjoyed collaborations with dance and theater. She has appeared as violist/dancer at the Merce Cunningham Studio in New York City, served as music consultant at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, and had music from her Viola Solo CD featured in a production at Intiman Theatre.
Watras studied with Atar Arad at Indiana University and served as a teaching assistant to the Juilliard String Quartet while at the Juilliard School. She is currently Associate Professor of Viola and chair of Strings at the University of Washington School of Music, where she was awarded the Donald E. Petersen Endowed Fellowship and the Royalty Research Fund. Watras has given viola and chamber music classes throughout the United States and abroad, at schools such as Indiana University, Cleveland Institute of Music, Strasbourg Conservatoire (France), and Chosun University (South Korea). She has twice returned to her alma mater, Indiana, to teach as a guest professor.