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Faculty Recital: Melia Watras, viola: Written/Unwritten

Sunday, January 11, 2015 - 7:30pm
$20 ($12 students/seniors). Notecard.
Violist Melia Watras (Photo: Mikel Watras)
Violist Melia Watras and special guests perform Jan. 11 at Meany Theater (Photo: Mikel Watras)

Violist Melia Watras explores written and improvised music with an all-star lineup of performers. Jazz innovators Cuong Vu and Ted Poor and Pacific Northwest Ballet concertmaster Michael Jinsoo Lim join Watras in blurring genre through improvisation. Seattle Symphony pianist Kimberly Russ collaborates with Watras on written works by J.S. Bach and Henri Vieuxtemps, and Lim takes to the viola to join Watras for a performance of George Benjamin’s Viola, Viola.


Melia Watras, viola

Described as "staggeringly virtuosic" by The Strad, violist Melia Watrashas distinguished herself as one of her instrument's leading voices: as a soloist, recording artist, and cofounder of the acclaimed Corigliano Quartet. An accomplished and adventurous performer of new music, she has championed the works of living composers throughout her career. She has commissioned, premiered and recorded numerous new compositions, while appearing onstage at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall, and Alice Tully Hall. 

Her expanding discography has garnered considerable attention and praise from the media. 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."

She serves as Associate Professor of Viola at the University of Washington, where she is chair of the Strings Division and a Donald E. Petersen Endowed Fellow. She currently resides in Seattle with her husband, Corigliano Quartet violinist Michael Jinsoo Lim.

 Watras plays a viola made by Samuel Zygmuntowicz.

Michael Jinsoo Lim, violin

Praised by Gramophone for playing with “delicious abandon,” and described as “bewitching” by the Seattle Times, violinist Michael Jinsoo Lim enjoys a dynamic musical career as concertmaster, soloist, chamber musician, recording artist, and teacher. Recently named concertmaster of the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra in Seattle, Lim is also widely known for his work as co-founder of the renowned Corigliano Quartet. He is in demand as a chamber musician and as a performer of new and experimental music, performing as a member of Open End, an ensemble specializing in contemporary music and improvisation.

Lim’s solo engagements have included appearances with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the International Chamber Orchestra of Girona, Spain, the Indiana University Philharmonic, the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Lafayette Symphony Orchestra as well as a performance in Weill Recital Hall for a tribute concert for celebrated American composer John Corigliano.

As a member of the Corigliano Quartet (, Lim has enjoyed critical acclaim across the U.S. and abroad and has won numerous awards, including the Grand Prize at the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition and the ASCAP/CMA Award for Adventurous Programming. Called “musicians who seem to say, ‘Listen to this!’” by the New York Times, the Corigliano Quartet has performed in the nation’s leading music centers, including Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall, and the Kennedy Center. The group’s most recent CD was named by the New Yorker as one of the top ten Classical recordings of 2007.

Lim’s work as a performer has also extended to the theater. He starred in director Nick Schwartz-Hall’s Tempo of Recollection, a stage performance about the life and work of composer Erwin Schulhoff, and will serve as consultant for Seattle Repertory Theatre’s upcoming production of Opus, directed by Braden Abraham.

Lim was born in Lafayette, Indiana and began playing the violin at the age of four, studying with his mother, Sun Boo Lim. He went on to study with Vartan Manoogian before beginning his formal training at Indiana University, where he was a pupil of the legendary violinist and teacher Josef Gingold. Lim received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Indiana University, where he won First Prize in the school’s Violin Concerto Competition. He also held a faculty position at Indiana as a Visiting Lecturer. Later, he taught chamber music at the Juilliard School as an assistant to the Juilliard String Quartet. He has served as Musical Artist in Residence at Dickinson College and on the faculty of the New York Youth Symphony Chamber Music Program. He currently serves on the faculty of Cornish College of the Arts, where he teaches violin, viola, and chamber music. Lim also maintains a private studio of violin and viola students.

Lim has recorded for Naxos, DreamWorks, Albany Records, CRI, Bayer Records, and Aguava New Music, and appears on numerous television and film soundtracks, including the Oscar-winning score to Brokeback Mountain. He has performed live on WFMT-Chicago’s Live From Studio One and has been heard on NPR programs such as Performance Today and All Things Considered. Lim has made radio and television appearances in the U.S., Spain, Costa Rica, and Korea. 

In addition to his work as a performer, Lim has also served as a recording producer. He has produced the critically acclaimed CD, Melia Watras: Viola Solo and co-produced Prestidigitation, Ms. Watras’s latest recording on the Fleur De Son label. Lim currently lives in Seattle with his wife, violist Melia Watras.

Cuong Vu

Cuong Vu is widely recognized by jazz critics as a leader of a generation of innovative musicians. A truly unique musical voice, Cuong has lent his trumpet playing to a wide range of artists such as Pat Metheny, Laurie Anderson, and David Bowie.

As a youngster, Cuong's intense dedication and love for music led him to a full scholarship at the New England Conservatory of Music where he received his Bachelor of Music in Jazz studies with a distinction in performance. Transitioning from his studies in Boston, he moved to New York in 1994 and began his career actively leading various groups while touring extensively throughout the world. As a leader, Cuong has released eight recordings, each making critics’ lists of the 10 best recordings of their respective years and has received rave reviews from notable publications such as the New York Times, The New Yorker, Harper’s, the Guardian, BBC Music Magazine, JazzTimes and Downbeat. Each record displays how he has carved out a distinctive sonic territory as a trumpet player, blurring all stylistic borders while developing his own compositional aesthetic and sound world.

Awards and honors that Cuong has garnered include grants from the Royalty Research Foundation, the Donald E. Peterson Professorship, ArtistTrust, 4Culture, CityArts and the Colbert Award for Excellence.  Cuong is currently associate professor and chair of Jazz Studies at the University of Washington and was awarded the University of Washington's prestigious Distinguished Teacher Award in his third year on faculty. In 2002 and 2006, Cuong was a recipient of the Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album as a member of the Pat Metheny Group. He’s been recognized as one of the top 50 Jazz Artists in an article called “The New Masters” from the British magazine, “Classic CD” and in 2006 was named the Best International Jazz Artist by the Italian Jazz Critics’ Society. Amazon listed Vu’s “Come Play With Me” on their “The 100 Greatest Jazz Albums of All Time.” 

Ted Poor

After graduating from the Eastman School of Music in 2003, drummer Ted Poor moved to New York City, where he has made a deep impression on the jazz and improvised music scene.  Modern Drummer describes his playing as “adventurous, truly dynamic, and forward-thinking.” Jazz Review writes, “Ted has an uncanny ability to shape the music and a refreshingly unique, organic approach to playing the drums.” This unique approach has caught the ears of many of jazz’s most established musicians and quickly placed him amongst those drummers most in demand.

Ted has toured the world over and is a regular member of many bands, including those of Grammy award winning trumpeter Cuong Vu, guitarist Ben Monder, Bad Touch, and the Respect Sextet.  Ted’s most recent project as a leader is called Mt. Varnum. Formed in August of 2011, Mt. Varnum reconciles a life-long love of deep swing with an equally earnest adoration of classic and indie rock.  The band’s forthcoming debut release “Wounded Caroline” is a powerful and complete manifestation of that union.

As an in-demand sideman, Ted has appeared on dozens of recordings and has shared the stage with many world renowned artists such as Kurt Rosenwinkel, Bill Frisell, Mark Turner, Chris Potter, Kenny Werner, Maria Schneider, Aaron Parks and Ralph Alessi. As a guest soloist and educator, Poor has held residencies at, among others, the Eastman School of Music, Berklee College of Music, Cal Arts, Lawrence University, the University of Oregon, and the HR Big Band of Frankfurt.  He is currently an Artist in Residence at the University of Washington in Seattle. 

Kimberly Russ

Seattle Symphony Resident Pianist Kimberly Russ celebrates over ten seasons playing with the orchestra. Continually in demand as soloist and collaborative pianist alike, Russ has appeared with the Seattle Philharmonic and the Cascade, Sammamish, Port Angeles and Central Florida Symphonies. Performance highlights have included solo appearances with the Seattle Symphony for the Beyond the Score and Celebrate Asia series, and performances with guest orchestras the Israel Philharmonic and the Mariinsky Orchestra. Russ is Principal Keyboard of The All-Star Orchestra, a new made-for-television symphonic educational series currently airing on PBS nationwide. The DVD series can be purchased through NAXOS. Russ has also begun Harmony for Heroes, a nonprofit musical outreach for our military and veterans.