University of Arizona

Monica Ellis

Bassoonist Monica Ellis is a founding member of the twice GRAMMY nominated wind quintet, Imani Winds, who for over a quarter century has dazzled audiences with their dynamic playing, adventurous programming and commitment to outreach, new works and collaborations. Imani Winds was nominated for a second GRAMMY award for its 9th studio recording entitled BRUITS.

As the daughter of a jazz saxophonist father and fashionista mother, she was raised in a house full of go-getters. A natural organizer, Monica is the co-artistic and executive director for Imani Winds and their annual Chamber Music Festival and treasurer for their non-profit Foundation.

A self-proclaimed “band kid”, growing up in her beloved city of Pittsburgh, Monica played clarinet, saxophone and piano. After being introduced to the bassoon in middle school, she began studying with Mark Pancerev, of the Pittsburgh Symphony and went on to receive her Bachelor of Music degree from Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, studying with George Sakakeeny. Among other influential events while at Oberlin, her desire to connect with others flourished through her participation in the Panama Project – a month long camp for young Panamanian musicians.

She received her Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School and Professional Studies Certificate from Manhattan School of Music in the Orchestral Performance Program, studying with Frank Morelli at both institutions.

She has performed and recorded with dozens of world-renowned artists and organizations spanning genres and styles from the likes of Wayne Shorter to the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Solo bassoon appearances have been with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra and the Chineke! Orchestra in London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Recording credits include 9 albums with Imani Winds (Bright Shiny Things, Koch International Classics, EOne and EMI Classics). Monica can also be heard on: Edward Simon – Sorrows and Triumphs, Chick Corea – The Continents, Wayne Shorter Quartet – Without a Net, Mohammed Fairouz – Native Informant, Jeff Scott – Urban Classical Music Project, Brubeck Brothers Quartet – Classified, Steve Coleman – Ascension to Light and Perspectives Ensemble – Montsalvatge Mardrigal.

A passionate educator, Monica is on the faculty of Curtis Institute of Music and Manhattan School of Music and has been a visiting professor/faculty at The University of Chicago, Mannes School of Music and The Juilliard School’s Music Advancement Program. Also, a renowned clinician, she frequently presents master classes and solo recital performances across the country.

She is a sought-after commentator on critical issues of race, gender and entrepreneurship in classical music and serves on the Orchestra of St. Luke’s Educational Advisory Committee and is a board member for Concert Artists Guild and the International Double Reed Society (IDRS). Monica is a Fox Bassoon Artist and plays exclusively on a Model 201.

Monica religiously watches Jeopardy!, loves home decorating and resides in the historic village of Harlem in New York City with the greatest joy of her life – her 9 year old son, Oden.