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Faculty Concert: Bonnie Whiting, percussion

Sunday, October 8, 2023 - 2:00pm
$20 General; $15 UW affiliate; $10 students/seniors.
Bonnie Whiting (Photo: Titilayo Ayangade).
Bonnie Whiting (Photo: Titilayo Ayangade).

Bonnie Whiting performs recent commissions centered on the speaking percussionist, improvisation, and elements of movement and gesture. Featuring the world premiere of an expansive new solo work by composer Wang Lu, a realization of UW colleague Melia Watras’ graphic score Barking up which tree? and a duo performance, with Voice faculty Carrie Shaw, of Yiheng Yvonne Wu’s Four Poems of Li-Young Lee.


Faculty Recital
Bonnie Whiting, Percussion and Voice
With Carrie Shaw, Soprano

Four Poems of Li-Young Lee (2012): Yiheng Yvonne Wu
Text: Li-Young Lee

I. One Heart
II. Out of Hiding
III. The Weight of Sweetness
IV. Station

Barking up which tree? (2019): Melia Watras
Photographs: Michelle Smith-Lewis

*Stages (2023): Wang Lu
Text: Lucy Corin
*World premiere

Many thanks to: the UW Percussion Studio for expert help and loading, Doug Niemela for sound and tech wizardry, Jay McAleer for lighting design and support, Melissa Wang for running the light board, the Meany Center staff and the UW School of Drama, Joanne DePue, David Nikki Crouse, and the  School of Music Director Joël-François Durand.

The University of Washington acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot nations. 

 Program Notes

Stages (Wang Lu)

For solo percussion with text from Lucy Corin’s One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses, dedicated to Bonnie Whiting with great admiration. 

This work was composed through various stages of collaboration and conversation between myself and Bonnie Whiting. It started from our memories as teenagers: growing up in China, I played snare drum in marching band as a Communist Young Pioneer, waving plastic flowers in ceremonies to honor leaders. And, Bonnie suddenly had to position herself between family and religious extremism. Our shared experiences of unspoken confusion and struggle at the same age motivated the themes and subtexts of the piece. This work explores and unveils deeply hidden stages of consciousness and moves fluidly between them using sounds, bodily movements, vocalizations, and text recitations, while also employing familiar objects such as pot lids, infant music boxes, radios, solo cups, thermal sheets, etc. It is storytelling without being about one single narrative, and it moves between detonation of emotions and cool abstraction. The work invites the audience to imagine and interpret in multiple ways, and is filled with both restlessness and exhaustion. The text comes from Corin’s Questions in Significantly Smaller Font, adapted in part from

-Wang Lu 

Presented with generous support from the UW's Arts Faculty Fellows program.

Four Poems of Li-Young Lee (Yiheng Yvonne Wu)

I had made an earlier attempt to set the poetry of Li-Young Lee but shied away from the project, partly because I didn’t want to upset the lyricism of Lee’s work. After I chose these four poems for this duo, which included Bonnie Whiting who specifically asked to perform as a speaking percussionist, I knew that I wanted to have her recite all the poetry “straight.” Her recitation of the poetry has no edits or repetitions. The percussion shadows the poetry, affirming the poetic content in various ways. A more distant shadowing comes in the form of the soprano whose presence both vocally and on stage emerges gradually. The listener, therefore, must tend to the two performers’ three “voices,” which each occupy distinct musical and conceptual spaces. Intersections among them are subtle and occasional. The surreal fourth poem “Station” casts all three voices into new roles, and they finally move together for a few brief moments. 

-Yiheng Yvonne Wu

Barking up which tree? (Melia Watras)

It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all the answers.
—from “The Scotty Who Knew Too Much,” by James Thurber. Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated (Harper
Brothers, 1940)

Performance notes
The player, or players, may start on any island, and decide their own path. This may include returning to an island previously visited. The performer(s) may travel to any number of islands, or may choose to remain exclusively on one island. Select a specific sound, melody, or articulation for each symbol, and allow the textures and holes in the terrain to affect the space between gestures. Follow the chiaroscuro for dynamic contrast throughout the work. The outlines of the islands and curvatures in the landscapes may exert influence on phrasing contours, as well as the overall shape and arc of the piece.
9 photographs provide close ups of each of the 7 islands, as well as 2 overviews of the archipelago. Players are encouraged to be experimental with the way the piece is performed and presented. Some ideas might include a dramatic stage set-up and/or lighting, or projecting photographs of the score during the performance.
—Melia Watras


Wang Lu

Composer and pianist Wang Lu writes music that reflects a very natural identification with influences from urban environmental sounds, linguistic intonation and contours, traditional Chinese music and freely improvised practices, through the prism of contemporary instrumental techniques and new sonic possibilities.

Wang Lu’s works have been performed internationally, by ensembles including the Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Ensemble Recherche, Ensemble Mosaik, the Tapiola Sinfoniatta, ThePhoenix Ensemble, the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra MusicNOW, MinnesotaOrchestra, Boston Lyric Opera, American Composers Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lille, Holland Symfonia, Shanghai National Chinese Orchestra, Musiques Nouvelles, Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne,International Contemporary Ensemble, Talea Ensemble, Seattle Modern Orchestra, Alarm Will Sound, Ensemble Dal Niente, Third Sound, Yarn/Wire, The Crossing Choir, New York Virtuoso Singers, andsoloists Miranda Cuckson, Jennifer Koh, Claire Chase and pianist Jacob Greenberg among others.

Wang Lu has received the Wladimir and Rhoda Lakond award from American Academy of Arts and Letters (2020), the Berlin Prize in Music Composition (Spring 2019 residency) and was a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow, commissions from the Koussevitzky Foundation at the Library of Congress and theFromm Foundation at Harvard, commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts, The BarlowFoundation, New Music USA and the Alice M. Ditson Fund at Columbia University.

Wang Lu’s music was programmed on festivals such as the 2023 Musical Nova in Finland, 2022 New YorkPhilharmonic’s Sound On series curated by Nadia Sirota, 2014 New York Philharmonic Biennial, MATAFestival, Cresc. Biennale in Frankfurt, Gaudeamus Music Week, Tanglewood, Cabrillo Music Festival, Beijing Modern, Pacific and Takefu festivals in Japan, Mostly Mozart, Aspekte Festival in Salzburg, Mizzou International Composers Festival, and the Havana New Music Festival. She has also been a resident at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Yaddo, MacDowell and Hermitage Artist Retreat. Collaborations have included an evening of poetry and music with poet Ocean Vuong. In 2019, her music was featured on portrait concerts at Miller Theater with ICE and Yarn/Wire, with Ensemble Recherche in Paris, and withEnsemble Mosaik plus soloists Ryan Muncy and Wu Wei in Berlin. In 2021, her projects include Aftertouch a flute electronic and video piece for Claire Chase’s Density 2036.

Wang Lu was the Vanguard Emerging Opera Composer at the Chicago Opera Theatre (2020- 22). Her full-length chamber opera The Beekeeper in collaboration with librettist Kelley Rourke was concert premiered at Chicago’s Athenaeum Center in March 2021.

In 2022-23 season her projects include a new orchestra work Surge commissioned by the Virginia Toulmin Foundation for the New York Philharmonic (Jan. 2023), with following performances by the Cincinnati Symphony, Aspen Music Festival, Des Moines Symphonny and Pensacola Symphony Orchestra; A large ensemble work The Nothing Man and Other Tales commissioned by the Barlow Foundation for the Seattle Modern Orchestra (Jun. 2023), a large ensemble work commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts for Chicago based Ensemble Dal Niente, a new string quartet Motion for the Parker Quartet, and a piano quintet Wave Field for the Danish Quartet and pianist Saleem Abboud Ashkar . Other international ensembles performing Wang Lu’s compositions this season also include: Ensemble Sillages in France, Phoenix Ensemble in Basel Switzerland, Tapiola Sinfonietta,in Finland, Jennifer Koh at Phoenix Symphony’s new music festival REVERB.

Wang Lu is an Associate Professor of Music at Brown University, after receiving her doctoral degree in composition at Columbia University and graduating from the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music.

From 2022-23, Wang Lu is a mentor at Luna Composition Lab that provides mentorship, education, and resources for young female, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming composers ages 13-18. She will be teaching at Yarn/Wire Institute and Music on the Point in summer 2023.

Of her portrait album Urban Inventory, released in March 2018, Alex Ross wrote in the New Yorker, “I’ve listened at least a dozen times to the composer Wang Lu’s new album, “Urban Inventory” (New Focus Recordings), and remain happily lost in its riotous maze of ideas and images. Every moment is vividly etched, drenchedin instrumental color, steeped in influences that range from ancient Chinese folk music to the latest detonations of the European avant-garde… The sense of loneliness that emerges at the end of “CloudIntimacy” lurks behind all of Wang Lu’s meticulous frenzies: it is of a piece with the essential solitude ofcomposing, of sitting in silence and dreaming of a music that has never been heard.”

Yiheng Yvonne Wu

Yiheng Yvonne Wu is a composer and interdisciplinary artist whose work ranges from conventionally notated chamber pieces to staged experimental works. Her compositions investigate poetic and physical qualities of instrumental sounds, juxtaposing sonic characters through unconventional musical forms. Performer personas take prominence on stage through pieces that feature guided improvisations, creating room for musicians to interact and respond to each other. Recent interdisciplinary projects have incorporated American Sign Language, poetry, dance/movement, art installation, and video. 

Wu has received commissions from the La Jolla Symphony, Arraymusic, Michael Mizrahi and the Wisconsin Music Teachers Association, Figmentum, the Bardin-Niskala Duo, and Bent Frequency, among others. Her music has been performed by MIVOS string quartet,, Black Sheep Contemporary Ensemble, the University of Washington Percussion Ensemble, and Ensemble SurPlus and featured in the WasteLAnd concert series, the University of Tennessee Contemporary Music Festival, New Music on the Bayou, SoundSCAPE Festival, and Aspen Music Festival. Collaborators have included Jennifer Torrence, Ayako Kato, Christopher Clarino, Bonnie Whiting, Jessica Aszodi, Rachel Beetz, Dustin Donahue, and Todd Moellenberg. “Dreams of a Young Piano,” for solo piano with chamber ensemble, was awarded the 2018 Judith Lang Zaimont Prize by the International Alliance for Women in Music. Her string quartet “Utterance," released on Carrier Records, won the 5th Mivos/Kanter String Quartet Composition Prize. 

As Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (beginning Fall 2022) and previously at Beloit College, Wu teaches courses in composition/songwriting, music theory, music technology, and interdisciplinary arts. She has supported students working across many musical genres, including rock, hip hop, folk, indie, pop, game music, gospel, jazz, and classical. As founder and director of the InterArts Ensemble at Beloit College, she brought together musicians, visual artists, videographers, writers, and dancers to collaborate on original performances and installations. 

As an educator, equity and antiracism have been central to Wu’s work. She was a co-organizer of Black Lives Matter Beloit, and she co-led antiracism trainings for students, faculty, and staff at Beloit College. At UCCS, she is leading the Music program’s redesign of the four-semester music theory sequence with a focus on making music theory inclusive of many musical styles and relevant to students’ musical lives. In her composition/songwriting courses, she welcomes students working in all genres and mediums. She guides students to build a mutually collaborative and supportive classroom community. 

Born in Taiwan, Wu emigrated to the US just before her third birthday and grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia. There her family was befriended by Ethel Thomson, a retired school teacher, who volunteered as her piano teacher for several years. Other life-changing mentors have included Sophia Serghi, Carey Bagdassarian, Michael Friedmann, and Steven Takasugi. Influential composition teachers have included John Halle, Kathryn Alexander, and Katharina Rosenberger. 

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.

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

Newly appointed voice faculty Carrie Shaw (Ben Marcum Photo)

Carrie Henneman Shaw joined the Voice Program as an artist in residence in Autumn 2020. As a singer, Carrie engages in a wide variety of musical projects, but she focuses on early and contemporary music.

A sample of her work includes an upcoming solo recording on Naxos Records of early 18th-century French song; creating music for a live-music-for-dance project with James Sewell Ballet; and collaborating on a recording with the band Deerhoof. Carrie is a two-time winner of a McKnight Fellowship for Performing Musicians, and she is a member of two groups that focus on music by living composers, Ensemble Dal Niente, a mixed chamber collective, and Quince Ensemble, a treble voice quartet.

She appears in numerous recordings ranging from medieval sacred music to a video-game soundtrack, and before coming to the UW, she has been maintaining a full university studio for the six years and participating in educational residencies for composers and performers around the country, including UC-Berkeley, Stanford, New York University, the University of Chicago, and beyond.