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 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), 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.
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 Ashley one of the best “miscellaneous” instrumentalists of 2016.
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; UC San Diego; Stanford University; University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Oberlin Conservatory; 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 Herndon, Virginia. Internationally, the quartet has appeared at the Reykjavik Arts Festival,Die Bludenzer Tage zeitgemäßer Musik, Austria; Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Italy; and Universität der Künste and BKA Theater, Germany. Their recordings include the epic 100 Cadences of Arthur Jarvinen, music for several small films and pop records, 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.
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.
Walters can be heard on Cold Blue Records, Darla Records, Populist Records, Tzadik Records, Cuneiform, 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, 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).
Walters’ 2018-2019 season includes performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center (NYC), Monterey Jazz Festival, Angel City Jazz Festival, Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN), The Square Room (Knoxville, TN), Merkin Concert Hall (NYC), the CREATE Festival (New Haven), solo and ensemble performances on the wasteLAnd concert series, and several recording projects.