Violist Melia Watras presents a program of music influenced by mythology and folklore. Inspired by Robert Schumann’s Märchenbilder (Pictures from Fairyland), Op.113 for viola and piano, Richard Karpen, Cuong Vu, and Watras composed new works for this project, to be performed alongside the Schumann. Watras will be joined onstage for these world premieres by renowned musicians Vu (trumpet), Winston Choi (piano), Matthew Kocmieroski (percussion), and Michael Jinsoo Lim (violin).
Melia Watras, viola
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 received considerable attention and praise from the media. The Seattle Times named her most recent CD, Short Stories, a Critics’ Pick, and marveled at her “velocity that seems beyond the reach of human fingers.” 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,” and called her second release (Prestidigitation) “astounding and both challenging and addictive to listen to.” For Viola Solo, Watras adapted John Corigliano’s Fancy on a Bach Air for viola. Her edition of this work is published by G. Schirmer, Inc.
With the Corigliano Quartet, Watras has concertized throughout the United States and abroad, garnering much critical acclaim. Described as “musicians who seem to say ‘Listen to this!’” by the New York Times, the ensemble’s Naxos label CD was named one of the Ten Best Classical CDs of the Year by The New Yorker and prompted Gramophone to proclaim, “the unbridled force and full-metal virtuosity that the Corigliano Quartet unleash on this music is astounding.” 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. Watras’s ongoing exploration of improvisation has led her to collaborating with jazz innovators Cuong Vu and Ted Poor, and to writing her own compositions. She has written solo and chamber music works for viola, and her violin/viola duo Liquid Voices was recently given its European premiere.
A versatile performer, Watras has enjoyed collaborations with dance and theater. She appeared as violist/dancer in the premiere of Kathryn Sullivan's At Home, at the Merce Cunningham Studio in New York City. Music from her Viola Solo CD was featured in director Sheila Daniels’s production of Crime and Punishment at Intiman Theatre, and she worked as music consultant for Braden Abraham’s production of Opus at Seattle Repertory Theatre.
Melia Watras was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and began her musical studies on the piano at age 5. Soon after, she turned to the viola and made her debut at 16, soloing with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. Her formal studies took her to Indiana University, where she studied with Abraham Skernick and Atar Arad, earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and the prestigious Performer’s Certificate. While at Indiana, Watras began her teaching career as Professor Arad’s Associate Instructor, and was a member of the faculty as a Visiting Lecturer. She went on to study chamber music at the Juilliard School while serving as a teaching assistant to the Juilliard String Quartet.
Watras serves as Associate Professor of Viola and chair of Strings at the University of Washington, where she currently holds the Adelaide D. Currie Cole Endowed Professorship and was previously awarded the Donald E. Petersen Endowed Fellowship and the Royalty Research Fund. Watras has given viola and chamber music classes 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. Watras currently resides in Seattle with her husband, Pacific Northwest Ballet concertmaster Michael Jinsoo Lim. She plays a viola made by Samuel Zygmuntowicz.
Cuong Vu, trumpet
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.”
Winston Choi, piano
Winner of the 2002 Orléans Concours International and Laureate of the 2003 Honens International Piano Competition, Chicago-based Canadian pianist Winston Choi is an inquisitive performer whose fresh approach to standard repertory, and masterful understanding, performance and commitment to works by living composers, make him one of today’s most dynamic young concert artists.
Choi maintains an active international performing schedule. In demand as a concerto soloist, orchestras he has appeared with include the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, the CBC Radio Orchestra, the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra, the Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra, the East Texas Symphony Orchestra, the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra, the Fort Collins Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Iowa, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra, the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Iowa, the New Philharmonic, the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra, the Peninsula Music Festival Orchestra, La Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Colombia, l’Orchestre Symphony d’Orléans, l'Orchestre National de Lille, l’Orchestre Symphonique d’Orléans, the Mississauga Symphony Orchestra, the Peninsula Music Festival Orchestra, the Richmond Symphony Orchestra, and the Victoria Symphony Orchestra.
Known for his colorful approach to programming and insightful commentary from the stage, Choi has recently appeared in recital at the National Arts Centre of Canada, the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto, New York’s Carnegie-Weill Recital Hall and Merkin Recital Hall, the Kennedy Center and the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., the Kravis Center in Florida, and the “Cicle Grans Solistes" in Spain. Choi performs extensively in France, having played venues such as the Salle Cortot, Lille’s Festival Rencontre Robert Casadesus, the Messiaen Festival, and the Strasbourg Festival. Frequently in demand throughout his native Canada, his numerous performances can often be heard on CBC radio broadcasts. Recently, he toured Eastern Ontario and Quebec under the auspices of Jeunesses Musicales and embarked on a 10-city Prairie Debut tour of the Canadian Prairie provinces. An accomplished chamber musician, he tours regularly with his wife, violinist MingHuan Xu as Duo Diorama, as well as with the Pivot Chamber Soloists. He has also performed with the Aeolus, Avalon, Philomusica and Spektral string quartets, and is a member of the Civitas Ensemble.
As a dedicated champion of contemporary music, Choi has premiered and commissioned over 100 works by young composers as well as established masters. A composer himself, being involved with the creative process is an integral part of his artistry. He was the first pianist to perform Pierre Boulez’s last version of Incises in North America and made the South American premiere of Luciano Berio‘s Sonata for pianoforte solo. He also regularly appears in concert at IRCAM, the world’s most renowned institution for contemporary music. Composers he has collaborated with include William Bolcom, Elliott Carter, John Corigliano, Brian Ferneyhough, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Bright Sheng, Christian Wolff, Chen Yi and John Zorn. He is also a core member of one of the country's most exciting new music groups, Ensemble Dal Niente. A frequent performer on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's MusicNOW Series, Choi has also performed with Contempo and the Fulcrum Point New Music Project.
Already a prolific recording artist, Choi’s debut CD, the complete piano works of Elliott Carter (l’Empreinte Digitale in France) was given 5 stars by BBC Music Magazine. He has also recorded the complete piano music of Jacques Lenot for the Intrada label, having won the Grand Prix du Disque from l’Académie Charles Cros for Volume I. His recording of the piano works of Thomas Adès will soon be released on the Buisonne label. Other labels he can be heard on include Albany, Arktos, Crystal Records, Naxos and QuadroFrame.
Choi obtained his Bachelor and Master of Music from Indiana University, and his DM from Northwestern University. His studies were with Vivienne Bailey, James Tweedie, Menahem Pressler and Ursula Oppens. An accomplished teacher, he is also in demand as a master class clinician and lecturer on a variety of pedagogical topics. Previously on the faculties of Bowling Green State University and the Oberlin Conservatory, he is Associate Professor and Head of Piano at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.
Matthew Kocmieroski, percussion
Matthew Kocmieroski is the principal percussionist with the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra. He also regularly performs with the Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera orchestra.
In addition to his orchestral work, Kocmiersoki maintains an active schedule as a chamber musician. He co-founded and was artistic director and percussionist for the New Performance Group, as well as a principal member of Taneko. He also co-founded and is a principal member of the Pacific Rims Percussion Quartet. He regularly performs with the Seattle Chamber Players, and has appeared at the Seattle Chamber Music Society Festivals, the Icicle Creek Music Festival, the Marrowstone Music Festival, the Methow Music Festival, the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, the Seattle International Chamber Music Festival, and the Bellingham Festival of Music. Internationally he has appeared at the Bergen, Moscow Autumn, Moscow Cold Alternativa, St. Petersburg’s Sound Waves, Kiev MusicFest and Warsaw Autumn festivals.
Kocmieroski takes great pride in his work collaborating with numerous composers, both established as well as emerging, on the development and premiere of important new works and the recordings that have resulted from these collaborations. Kocmieroski may also be heard on a variety of solo, chamber, and orchestral music recordings as well as on numerous major and independent motion picture, television, and video game soundtracks.
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 (www.coriglianoquartet.com), 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.