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Karla Donehew Perez

Violin CViolin D

Admired for her “luscious melodies” (New York Concert Review) and enlightened programming, violinist Karla Donehew Perez is a founding member of the GRAMMY-winning Catalyst Quartet as well as an acclaimed soloist, educator, and creative collaborator with numerous world-class artists and ensembles. Since the 2010 founding of the Catalyst Quartet, Donehew Perez has dazzled audiences as a key contributor to the ensemble’s “intense vitality and finesse, making bold cases for works that deserve to be regular concert fare” (Gramophone Magazine). She has performed as a soloist with multiple major U.S. orchestras and chamber ensembles, earning individual awards and honors including an MPOWER Grant from the Sphinx Organization. She is currently a professor of violin studies at the Longy School of Music of Bard College.

With the Catalyst Quartet, Donehew Perez has toured widely throughout the United States and abroad, holding sold-out performances at The Kennedy Center, Chicago’s Harris Theater, Miami’s New World Center, and Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall. The quartet has also performed alongside the Cincinnati Symphony, New Haven Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and Orquesta Filarmónica de Bogotá (Colombia). Other international engagements have brought them to South Africa, the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, and Cuba – where they were the first American quartet to host a residency since the Cuban Revolution.

Conceived around a mission to promote unity through music, the Catalyst Quartet is known for its commitment to diversity and passion for contemporary works. Among their efforts to cultivate composing talent in diverse communities, the ensemble has served as principal faculty at the Sphinx Performance Academy and hosted ongoing workshops with Native American student composers at the Native American Composers Apprentice Project. Through a multi-part recording project, Uncovered, the Catalyst Quartet has released three albums celebrating historically important Black composers whose works have been overlooked by the traditional canon. The quartet can also be heard on its 2015 debut album The Bach/Gould Project and its 2017 album Dreams and Daggers with Cecile McLorin Salvant – which earned a GRAMMY Award for Best Jazz Album. For the 2023-2024 season, the Catalyst Quartet is Ensemble-in-Residence at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

As a solo performer, Donehew Perez has appeared with the Berkeley Symphony, Sacramento Philharmonic, San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, Oakland East Bay Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra, Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, Sphinx Chamber Orchestra and New World Symphony, among others. As a chamber musician, she has performed with ensembles including Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and East Coast Chamber Orchestra (ECCO), and collaborated with such artists as Joshua Bell, Zuill Bailey, Awadagin Pratt, Anthony McGill, Stewart Goodyear, Fredericka Von Stade, Garry Karr, and members of the Guarneri, Juilliard, and Takács quartets. She has also served as guest concertmaster at the Tucson Symphony and spent two years as a fellow at the New World Symphony, where she was often concertmaster or principal second violin.

An avid teacher and mentor, Donehew Perez has hosted collegiate-level residencies or masterclasses at Cornell University, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Rice University, Dartmouth College, the University of South Africa and Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico, to name just a few. In addition, she has led or taken part in residencies through the Kennedy Center, New York Philharmonic, Virginia Arts Festival, Interlochen Arts Center, and a U.S. State Department outreach tour that brought her to Colombia. She has taken part in festivals including Chamber Music Northwest, Mainly Mozart, Aspen Music Festival, Vail International Dance Festival, Encore Chamber Music, and Music in the Vineyards.

Besides receiving a 2015 MPOWER Grant from the Sphinx Organization, Donehew Perez has earned grants from Chamber Music America and New Music USA. She has also earned top prizes in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and the Sphinx Competition. Featured on all five Catalyst Quartet albums, Donehew Perez can also be heard on two other commercial recordings: Strum (Azica Records), a collection of works by composer and founding Catalyst Quartet violist Jessie Montgomery; and Bandoneón y Cuerdas, a collaborative album with bandoneon player JP Jofre.

She recently recorded the solo violin music for Mosaic, a new method anthology published by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Developed to build representation for communities traditionally neglected in classical music, the series highlights works and performances by Black, Latino, Asian, Indigenous and women artists.

Born in Puerto Rico, Donehew Perez started on the violin at age 3 and made her solo debut with the Puerto Rico Symphony when she was 9. After moving with her family to California at age 12, she attended a specialized middle school for outstanding music students with a focus on chamber music, setting her on a path to high-level quartet performance. She later studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music, earning both a Bachelor of Music and a Master’s Degree in Violin Performance. Her key mentors include Anne Crowden, Paul Kantor, David Cerone, Cavani Quartet and Peter Salaff.

Donehew Perez performs on a violin made in 2013 by renowned German luthier Stefan Peter Greiner, supported in part by a Sphinx MPower Artist Grant, and a fine violin bow by Victor Fetique on generous loan from the Rachel Elizabeth Barton Foundation.