Described as "staggeringly virtuosic" by The Strad, violist Melia Watras has long been at the forefront of the American new music scene, both as a soloist and co-founder of the award-winning Corigliano Quartet. Throughout her career, Watras has championed the works of living composers: commissioning, premiering and recording numerous new works for the solo viola and for string quartet, while appearing in the nation's leading venues including Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall, Alice Tully Hall and the Kennedy Center. The 2010-11 season will include the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winner Shulamit Ran's solo viola piece, Perfect Storm, written for Watras. 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." The Strad called her "excellent" and "authoritative," while the American Record Guide proclaimed, "Watras is a terrific violist." 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." Her upcoming third disc will include short, stylistically diverse works from composers ranging from Henri Vieuxtemps to Gyorgy Ligeti.
With the Corigliano Quartet, Watras has concertized extensively 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 quartet's 2007 CD release on the Naxos label 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 group has won awards such as 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 and WFMT-Chicago's Live from Studio One.
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 five. Soon after, she turned to the viola and made her debut at age sixteen, 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 at the University of Washington, where she is chair of the Strings Division and a Donald E. Petersen Endowed Fellow.