Melia Watras, viola
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, recording artist, and co-founder of the acclaimed Corigliano Quartet. An accomplished and adventurous performer, Watras 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. Recent highlights have included 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 the release of Short Stories, Watras’s third solo CD.
Watras’s 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,” 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. Watras’s second solo CD, Prestidigitation, features world premiere recordings of five works written especially for her and was described by Strings as “astounding, and both challenging and addictive to listen to.” The Seattle Times named Short Stories a Critics’ Pick, and marveled at her “velocity that seems beyond the reach of human fingers.”
With the Corigliano Quartet, Watras has concertized throughout the United States and abroad, performing to 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 numerous awards include the Grand Prize at the Fischoff Competition and the ASCAP/CMA Award for Adventurous Programming. The Corigliano Quartet has recorded for Naxos, Albany, Bayer, CRI, Riax, and Aguava and has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered and Performance Today as well as WFMT-Chicago’s Live from Studio One. 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 played viola and danced 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 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. Watras currently resides in Seattle with her husband, Corigliano Quartet violinist Michael Jinsoo Lim. She plays a viola made by Samuel Zygmuntowicz.