ashley walters web-3.jpg

Ashley Walters: Biography

Cellist Ashley Walters has been described as performing "with the kind of brilliance that beckons a major new performer on the new music scene" (Mark Swed, L.A. Times). She has been praised for her "imposing talents" (Sequenza 21) and "impressive" (Pitchfork) and "beautiful playing" (All About Jazz). Walters maintains a uniquely diverse career, performing music that blurs the boundaries between classical, avant-garde, and jazz, breaking new ground in repertoire with microtonality, extended techniques, alternative tunings, and improvisation.

 As a solo artist known for tackling virtuosic, demanding works and collaborating with composers, Walters has been the dedicatee of significant additions to the cello repertoire and has appeared on concert series and venues throughout the United States, including Walt Disney Concert Hall, Spectrum (NYC), Center for New Music (San Francisco), Continuum Music Festival (Memphis), Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, San Fransisco State University, Southern Utah University, San Diego New Music soundON Festival, Nief-Norf (Knoxville), Tuesdays @ Monk Space (Los Angeles), wild Up’s WORK series (Los Angeles), REDCAT (Los Angeles), the wulf (Los Angeles), People Inside Electronics (Los Angeles), Equal Sound (Los Angeles), the Outhaus (Los Angeles), and wasteLAnd music (Los Angeles).

Walters' debut solo album, Sweet Anxiety, was released in 2017 on populist records and has received rave reviews. David Olds of theWholeNote says about the album, "Walters is simply brilliant throughout the disc, and the short printed examples of the scores (other than the Berio) give some idea of the challenges she faced." Brandon Rolle of New Classic LA remarks"Walters breathes life into each work with her astounding virtuosity." Sweet Anxiety features works by Berio, Nicholas Deyoe, Andrew McIntosh, Wolfgang von Schweinitz, and Wadada Leo Smith. The album was named Bandcamp’s Best of Bandcamp Contemporary Classical for November 2017 by Peter Margasak and was featured on Steve Smith’s Night after Night playlist. 

A frequent collaborator with legendary trumpeter, improviser, and composer Wadada Leo Smith, Walters joined his Golden Quintet in 2016, recording America's National Parks the same year. The album was named Jazz Album of the Year in DownBeat Magazine’s 65th Annual Critics Poll and one of Nate Chinen’s Best Albums of 2016 in the New York Times. Dan McClenaghan of All About Jazz said about the album, “Ashley Walters' cello paints the rich, beautiful hues that subtly enhance the entire proceeding — the most auspicious addition to a jazz ensemble since Chico Hamilton brought the instrument into his chamber groups in the late 1950s.” In the 38th Annual Jazz Station Awards, Arnaldo Desouteiro named Walters one of the best “miscellaneous” instrumentalists of 2016. With Smith, Walters has played: Jazz at Lincoln Center (NYC), Sons d’Hiver Festival (Paris), Saalfelden International Jazz Festival (Austria), Mostra Sesc de Artes (Brazil), Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall (Turkey), Monterey Jazz Festival (CA), SFJAZZ (San Fransisco), CREATE Festival (San Fransisco/New Haven), Chicago Jazz Festival, The Kitchen (NYC), University of Alabama, Loyola University (New Orleans), Boyd Vance Theater (Austin), Match (Houston), Four Seasons Arts (Berkeley), Atlas Theater (Washington D.C.), Roulette (Brooklyn), and Angel City Jazz (Los Angeles). She appears on four of Smith’s albums: America’s National Parks, Rosa Parks: Pure Love, The Complete (14) String Quartets (forthcoming), and Appassionata to be released on ECM in 2020.

Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quartet (Anthony Davis, Ashley Walters, Pheeroan akLaff, and Smith) at Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall in Istanbul

Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quartet (Anthony Davis, Ashley Walters, Pheeroan akLaff, and Smith) at Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall in Istanbul

Walters is a founding member of the “superb” and “fabulous” (LA Times) Formalist Quartet, which has premiered a vast repertoire of works and is known for its audacious programming. The quartet was born on the 100th birthday of Dmitri Shostakovich (September 25th, 2006) and has played frequently across the United States in concert halls, festivals, art galleries, cafes, and homes, including the Walt Disney Concert Hall, REDCAT (Los Angeles), UC San Diego, Stanford University, University of Wisconsin — Milwaukee,  Oberlin Conservatory (Ohio), the Flatfile Galleries (Chicago), University of Nevada — Reno, MOSA Concert Series (New York), Princeton University, the Villa Aurora (Pacific Palisades), University of Maryland — Baltimore County, LISTEN/SPACE (New York), Hamiltonian Gallery, (Washington D.C.), and ArtSpace (Virginia). Internationally, the quartet has appeared at the Reykjavik Arts Festival (Iceland), Die Bludenzer Tage zeitgemäßer Musik (Austria), Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (Italy), and Universität der Künste and BKA Theater (Germany). In 2020 the Formalists will perform at ISCM World Music Days in Auckland, New Zealand. Their recordings include: Harold Budd’s Bandits of Stature, Cold Blue 2 (Mallets in the Air by James Tenney), Arthur Jarvinen’s 100 Cadences, Nicholas Deyoe’s with throbbing eyes (...for every day is another view of the tentative past and images from a sleepless night), David Arbury’s String Quartets, and Kristian Ireland’s Clearing on the <541> series through Innova records. Soon, the quartet will release a recording of Christian Wolff's string quartets, recorded in collaboration with the composer.

Formalist Quartet (Andrew McIntosh, Ashley Walters, Andrew Tholl, and Mark Menzies) at Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice, Italy

Formalist Quartet (Andrew McIntosh, Ashley Walters, Andrew Tholl, and Mark Menzies) at Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice, Italy

In the summer of 2013, Walters joined the faculty of the nief-norf Summer Festival, part of a multi-faceted contemporary music organization devoted to fostering creative collaboration among musical performers, composers, and scholars. Each summer, she joins colleagues from throughout the U.S. to perform, teach, and conduct ensembles at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

nief-norf faculty (Lisa Cella, Andrew Bliss, and Ashley Walters) at UT Knoxville

nief-norf faculty (Lisa Cella, Andrew Bliss, and Ashley Walters) at UT Knoxville

In Los Angeles, Walters is a member of wild Up and performs frequently with Brightwork newmusic, and on several LA concert series including: Monday Evening Concerts, wasteLAnd Music, and Tuesdays @ Monk Space.

Walters can be heard on twenty two albums on the labels: ECM, Naxos Records, Cold Blue Records, Darla Records, Populist Records, Tzadik Records, Cuneiform, MicroFest Records, Ravello Records, TUM Records, Cuneiform Records, Music from Stanford: <541>, Atlantic Records, Universal Motown, and as the cellist on the DVD documentary Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story. 

Walters currently serves as faculty at Chapman University, Moorpark College, and Ventura College. She has served on the faculty of the California State Summer School, the Academy of Creative Education, the Oakwood School, the Harmony Project, and as an Associate-in-Music at UCSD. She has presented guest lectures at Princeton University, University of Virginia, San Fransisco State University, Southern Utah University, CalArts, UC San Diego, Ventura College, and Northern Illinois University.

A native of Oak Hill, VA, Dr. Walters holds degrees from the University of California, San Diego (where she was twice awarded for excellence in teaching for her work with undergraduate students), the California Institute of the Arts, and Vanderbilt University (Magna Cum Laude).