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Melia Watras is a prominent American violist and professor of viola. 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 venues such as Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall, Alice Tully Hall and the Kennedy Center.
Watras attended 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, she served as Arad’s teaching assistant. She studied chamber music at the Juilliard School, while also teaching as an assistant to the Juilliard String Quartet.
Performing and recording artist
As a recording artist, Watras has garnered considerable attention and praise from the media. Her solo CDs have been recognized by publications such as Gramophone (which hailed her as “an artist of commanding and poetic personality”), The Strad, ("staggeringly virtuosic") and Strings (“Watras is a young player in possession of stunning virtuosic talent and deserving of the growing acclaim”). She has been heard on numerous radio programs, including NPR’s All Things Considered and Performance Today, and a live performance for the Danish Broadcasting Corporation.
Composers that have written solo viola works especially for Watras include: Brent Michael Davids, Richard Karpen, Shih-Wei Lo, Juan Pampin, Joshua Parmenter, Shulamit Ran, Kathryn Sullivan, Heinrich Taube, Diane Thome, Andrew Waggoner, and Anna Weesner. As a soloist and chamber musician, Watras has given world premieres of works by Atar Arad, John Corigliano, Brent Michael Davids, Tina Davidson, Alexander De Varon, Joël-François Durand, Jesse Jones, Richard Karpen, Garth Knox, Michael Jinsoo Lim, Shih-Wei Lo, Patrick Long, Eric Maestri, Anthony Moore, Jeffrey Mumford, Ichiro Nodaira, Juan Pampin, Joshua Parmenter, Robert Pound, Shulamit Ran, Adam Silverman, Kathryn Sullivan, Sir John Taverner, Heinrich Taube, Diane Thome, Dan Visconti, Andrew Waggoner, Anna Weesner, Frances White, Theodore Wiprud, Tamar Witkin and Mischa Zupko.
Watras’s adaptation of John Corigliano’s Fancy on a Bach Air for solo viola is published by G. Schirmer, Inc. She has written articles for the Juilliard Journal and New York Violist, and has been featured in an interview by Strings. In 2012, Watras began composing. Her compositions have received premieres in Chicago, Seattle and New York and have been performed in the United States and Europe.
As co-founder of the Corigliano Quartet, Watras has concertized throughout the United States and abroad, performing to much critical acclaim. The quartet’s awards include the Grand Prize at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and the ASCAP/CMA Award for Adventurous Programming. The Corigliano Quartet has recorded for Naxos, Albany, Bayer, CRI, Riax, and Aguava. 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.
Watras serves as Professor of Viola and chair of Strings at the University of Washington, where she holds the Adelaide D. Currie Cole Endowed Professorship and 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.
Atar Arad: Sonata for Viola Solo (1992) (CD FDS 57962)
J.S. Bach/Kodály: Chromatic Fantasy (CD FDS 57962)
Rebecca Clarke: Passacaglia on an Old English Tune for viola and piano (CD FDS 58007)
John Corigliano (arr. Watras): Fancy on a Bach Air (1997) for solo viola* (CD FDS 57962)
Brent Michael Davids: Viola Jokes for viola and tenor (2005)* (CD FDS 57992)
Georges Enescu: Concert Piece for viola and piano (CD FDS 58007)
Betsy Jolas: Episode sixième for viola solo (1984)* (CD FDS 58007)
Richard, Karpen: Aperture for amplified viola and interactive electronics (2006)* (CD FDS 57992)
György Ligeti: Loop (1994) from Sonata for viola solo (CD FDS 58007)
Juan Pampin: Nada for viola and live electronics (2006)* (CD FDS 57992)
Krzystof Penderecki: Cadenza per Viola Solo (CD FDS 57962)
Quincy Porter: Speed Etude for viola and piano (CD FDS 58007)
Paola Prestini: Sympathique* (CD FDS 57962)
Igor Stravinsky: Elégie (CD FDS 57962)
Heinrich Taube: Tacoma Narrows for viola and tape (2006)* (CD FDS 57992)
Diane Thome: And Yet... for viola and computer realized sound (2006)* (CD FDS 57992)
Henri Vieuxtemps: Elégie for viola and piano, Op. 30 (CD FDS 58007)
Dan Visconti: Hard-Knock Stomp for viola solo (2000)* (CD FDS 58007)
Andrew Waggoner: Collines parmi étoiles... (2003)* (CD FDS 57962)
Andrew Waggoner: Elle s’enfuit for viola and piano (2008)* (CD FDS 58007)
Anna Weesner: Flexible Parts for viola and piano (2008)* (CD FDS 58007)
Henryk Wieniawski: Rêverie for viola and piano (CD FDS 58007)
* denotes world premiere recording
Selected works by Melia Watras:
Photo by Mikel for viola solo (2012)
Sonata for viola solo (2012)
Liquid Voices for violin and viola (2013)
Luminous Points for violin solo (2013)
Prelude for viola solo (2014)
- "The Corigliano Quartet". March 2009. Retrieved 2010-02-09.