Described as “staggeringly virtuosic” by The Strad, violist Melia Watras has distinguished herself as one of her instrument’s leading voices: as a soloist, recording artist, and cofounder 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. Highlights of the upcoming season include the New York City premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winner Shulamit Ran’s Perfect Storm (a solo viola piece that was written for and given the world premiere by Watras), and the release of Short Stories, Watras’s third solo CD.
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 age 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 at the University of Washington, where she is chair of Strings, and a Donald E. Petersen Endowed Fellow. Watras currently resides in Seattle with her husband, Corigliano Quartet violinist Michael Jinsoo Lim. She plays a viola made by Samuel Zygmuntowicz.