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CANCELED: Faculty Concert: Bonnie Whiting, Through The Eye(s)

Friday, January 14, 2022 - 7:30pm
This event has been canceled.
  • Bonnie Whiting
    NPR Slingshot: For Bonnie Whiting, any object can be an instrument

Please note: This event has been postponed. 

Faculty percussionist Bonnie Whiting presents Through the Eye(s), a cycle of pieces for solo speaking and singing percussionist developed in collaboration with nine incarcerated people at the Indiana Women's Prison. The program opens with Whiting's realization of faculty composer Melia Watras's graphic score, "Barking up which tree?" 

Project Background

Through the Eye(s) is an extractable cycle of nine pieces for solo speaking and singing percussionist, developed in collaboration with nine incarcerated people at the Indiana Women's Prison, composer Eliza Brown, and percussionist Bonnie Whiting. Co-authors on the project include Whittney (CoCo) Bales-Malone, Ashley Strong, Marjorie Woods, Ingrid Swinford, Char’Dae Avery, LaDawn Johnson, Dawnetta Taylor (Shelton), Lara Campbell, Amaris Rose Bunyard, and Joyce (Potter) Hawkins.
The project centers the perspectives and artistic contributions of these incarcerated women, allowing education to function as “epistemic reparations” for the  injustices incarcerated people experience. While this can manifest in many ways, in the realm of arts education, it means using the arts as a space for incarcerated students to develop hermeneutic frames for their experience – that is, to shape their own narratives – and providing platforms for the creative work of incarcerated people to enter the public sphere with full authorial attribution. 
The program opens with Whiting's realization of Barking Up Which Tree? (2019), a graphic score by UW Viola Professor and composer Melia Watras, photographed by Michelle Smith-Lewis. Watras writes: "One block north of my house, the street is lined with plane trees. One sunny September day, I noticed lots of beautiful bark that had fallen from those trees into the street and onto the sidewalk. I was moved by the elegant and detailed shapes. The pieces lying next to each other made me think of a complex archipelago with secret markings revealed. In my fantasy, a plane tree had created an entire separate world inside itself, leaving us symbols that we could interpret through music. I drew on the bark, and in forming the symbols I looked to neume notation, specifically a Beneventan manuscript from the late 1000s to the early 1100s, manuscripts of the Bach Cello Suites, BWV 1007-1012, as well as other musical figures, sometimes interpreted through a whimsical lens."


The program opens with Bonnie Whiting's realization of faculty composer Melia Watras's graphic score, "Barking up which tree?" followed by Through the Eye(s).
The music and texts of Through the Eye(s) were created by the participants in a semester-long course taught by composer Eliza Brown in Fall 2019 at Indiana Women's Prison. All of the texts respond in some way to the project's collectively determined theme, "calm and storm." 


 Barking up which tree?
Graphic score by Melia Watras, photographed by Michelle Smith-Lewis

Through the Eye(s)

1. Calm and Storm (2’)
Text by Whittney (CoCo) Bales-Malone
Music by Eliza Brown

 2. Nightly Storm (4’30”)
Music and text by Ashley Strong

 3. Lost in the Fog (3’30”)
Text by Marjorie Woods
Music by Eliza Brown

4. My Tunnel (3-5’)
Graphic score and text by Ingrid Swinford

 5. Violent Passion (2’15”)
Music and text by Char’Dae Avery

 6. Fortitude (2’15”)
Music and text by LaDawn Johnson

 7. Who’s That? (4’)
Improvisatory score and text by Dawnetta Taylor (Shelton)

 8. HER (3’30”)
Music and lyrics by Lara Campbell

9. Emergence (1’)
Music and text by Amaris Rose Bunyard and Joyce (Potter) Hawkins

Through The Eye(s) Project Page

Artist Bios 

Bonnie Whiting
Bonnie Whiting (she/her) performs, commissions, improvises, and composes new experimental music for percussion. Her work centers on the relationship between percussive sound and the voice, championing music for the speaking and singing percussionist. Exploring intersections of storytelling and experimental music, her work is often cross-disciplinary, integrating text, music, movement, and technology. She lives and works in Seattle, WA, where she is Chair of Percussion Studies and the Ruth Sutton Waters Associate Professor at the University of Washington School of Music.

Her debut album, featuring an original solo-simultaneous realization of John Cage's 45' for a speaker and 27'10.554” for a percussionist, was released by Mode Records in April of 2017. Her sophomore album Perishable Structures, launched by New Focus Recordings in 2020, places the speaking percussionist in the context of storytelling and features her own music as well as works by Vinko Globokar, Frederic Rzewski, Richard Logan-Greene, and Susan Parenti.

Recent work includes performances as a percussionist and vocalist with the Harry Partch Ensemble on the composer's original instrumentarium, and a commission from the Indiana State Museum's Sonic Expeditions series for her piece Control/Resist: a site-specific work for percussion, field recordings, and electronics. She recently performed in the small chamber group premiering the multimedia opera The Ritual of Breath Is the Rite to Resist (co-commissioned by The Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College, and Stanford Live at Stanford University.) Whiting has an ongoing relationship as a soloist with the National Orchestra of Turkmenistan via the U.S. Embassy Cultural Affairs Office, playing concerti in Ashgabat in 2017 and 2018. She performs frequently with percussionist Jennifer Torrence, giving concerts of new experimental work for speaking percussionists throughout Norway and the US. Her collaboration with multimedia artist Afroditi Psarra generated the album < null_abc>, released on the Zero Moon label in 2018, and their current project with designer Audrey Desjardins on transcoding data from IoT devices as performance received a 2019/20 Mellon Creative Fellowship. This project was explored in a workshop at the 2020 Transmediale Festival in Berlin, and currently lives as an interactive net art installation. In 2022 she premiered Through the Eyes(s): an extractable cycle of nine pieces for speaking/singing percussionist collaboratively developed with composer Eliza Brown and ten incarcerated women, and gave the first performance of a new percussion concerto by Huck Hodge with the Seattle Modern Orchestra. 2023-24 brings the world premiere of a new solo speaking percussionist work by composer Wang Lu, recording and performance projects of original improvised music with clarinetist James Falzone and pianist Lisa Cay Miller, concerto appearances with Northwest Sinfonietta, and continued work on the Ritual of Breath project.

Whiting has presented solo and small ensemble shows at The Stone in New York, the Brackish Series in Brooklyn, The Lilypad in Boston, The New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, at Hallwalls in Buffalo, the Tiny Park Gallery in Austin, The Wulf in LA, the Carl Solway Gallery in Cincinnati, The Grove Haus in Indianapolis, on the Wayward Music Series in Seattle, on tour throughout New Zealand, and at colleges and universities around the country. Whiting is a core member of the Seattle Modern Orchestra and the Torch Quartet, and she has collaborated with many of today's leading new music groups, including red fish blue fish percussion group, (George Crumb's Winds of Destiny directed by Peter Sellars and featuring soprano Dawn Upshaw for the Ojai Festival), eighth blackbird (the “Tune-in” festival at the Park Avenue Armory), the International Contemporary Ensemble (on-stage featured percussionist/mover in Andriessen's epic Die Materie at the Park Avenue Armory, and the American premiere of James Dillon's Nine Rivers at Miller Theatre), Talea Ensemble (Time of Music Festival in Finland), Bang on a Can (Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians for the LA Philharmonic's Green Umbrella Series) and Ensemble Dal Niente (the Fromm Concerts at Harvard.) She attended Oberlin Conservatory (BM), the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (MM), and the University of California San Diego (DMA.). More at

Melia Watras (Photo: Michelle Smith Lewis)

Melia Watras has been hailed by Gramophone as “an artist of commanding and poetic personality” and by The Strad as “staggeringly virtuosic.” As a violist, composer and collaborative artist, she has sustained a distinguished career as a creator and facilitator of new music and art. The 2023-24 season includes the release of her new album Play/Write, which features her own compositions and works by Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti and Frances White; the world premiere of Watras’s Fantasies in alto clef for viola ensemble, commissioned by the American Viola Society for their 2024 festival in Los Angeles; and the debut of Watras’s Sarabanda for solo viola, which will be premiered and recorded as part of Atar Arad’s project, Partita Party.

Watras’s discography has received considerable attention from the press and the public. Her album String Masks, a collection of her own compositions including the titular work which utilizes Harry Partch instruments, was praised for “not only the virtuoso’s sensitive playing, but also her innovative and daring spirit,” by the Journal of the American Viola Society. Her compositional debut album, Firefly Songs, was hailed for “distilling rich life experiences into strikingly original musical form” by Textura. Schumann Resonances was described by the American Record Guide as “a rare balance of emotional strength and technical delicacy.” The Strad called 26 “a beautiful celebration of 21st century viola music.” Ispirare made numerous Best of 2015 lists, including the Chicago Reader’s (“Watras knocked the wind out of me with the dramatically dark beauty of this recording”). Short Stories was a Seattle Times Critics’ Pick, with the newspaper marveling at her “velocity that seems beyond the reach of human fingers.” Of her debut solo CD (Viola Solo), Strings praised her “stunning virtuosic talent” and called her second release (Prestidigitation) “astounding and both challenging and addictive to listen to.”

Watras’s compositions have been performed in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Bloomington (IN), Columbus (GA), Denmark, Spain, Switzerland and Wales. She has been commissioned by the Avalon String Quartet, violinists Mark Fewer, Rachel Lee Priday and Michael Jinsoo Lim, cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, pianist Cristina Valdés, accordionist Jeanne Velonis, violist Rose Wollman, and has had works performed by artists such as violist Atar Arad, singer Galia Arad, pianist Winston Choi, Harry Partch Instrumentarium Director Charles Corey, violinists Tekla Cunningham, Manuel Guillén and Yura Lee, vocalist Carrie Henneman Shaw, percussionist Bonnie Whiting and the ensemble Frequency. Her music has been heard on National Public Radio’s Performance Today, and can be found on the albums Play/Write; String Masks; 3 Songs for Bellows, Buttons and Keys; Firefly Songs; Schumann Resonances and 26. Watras’s adaptation of John Corigliano’s Fancy on a Bach Air for viola is published by G. Schirmer, Inc. and can be heard on her Viola Solo album.

For twenty years, Watras concertized worldwide and recorded extensively as violist of the renowned Corigliano Quartet, which she co-founded. The quartet appears on 13 albums, including their recording on the Naxos label, which was honored as one of the Ten Best Classical Recordings of the Year by The New Yorker.

Melia Watras studied with Atar Arad at Indiana University, 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 is currently Professor of Viola and Chair of Strings at the University of Washington, where she holds the Ruth Sutton Waters Endowed Professorship and was awarded the Adelaide D. Currie Cole Endowed Professorship, the Donald E. Petersen Endowed Fellowship, the Kreielsheimer and Jones Grant for Research Excellence in the Arts, 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 frequently returns to her alma mater, Indiana, to teach as a guest professor. She plays a viola made by Samuel Zygmuntowicz.