tema watstein

violin / psychology


Hailed for her "sweeping and bristling" sound and “impassioned” playing by the New York Times, Tema Watstein is an active chamber musician, educator, and psychology student based in New York City. Formerly a violinist in ETHEL, New York's premier "downtown" string quartet, she took great pride in her mission as a cultural and musical “pollinator,” bringing collaborative discoveries to audiences through multi-dimensional musical repertoire and community engagement. Through her tenure, ETHEL served as Ensemble in Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at Denison University. Tema also composed and performed works for the world premiere of Documerica at BAM, seen here.  

Tema currently serves on faculty at the Kaufman Center's Special Music School, New York City's only K-12 public school for musically gifted children. A writer in her spare time, Tema emphasizes narrative within music both in her own performance and as a teacher; beyond technique, she aims to teach music as a form of storytelling. She also works with violinist Cory Lee on his project Liberated Performer, helping musicians build confidence and cope with performance anxiety. 

A devoted performer of contemporary music, she has worked with many composers, including John Zorn, Charles Wuorinen, Steve Mackey, Kaija Saariaho, Gunther Schuller, John Corigliano, Paul Moravec, Chen Yi, and Ellen Taaffe Zwillich. Originally from New Haven, she collaborates often with Timo Andres, also a native of Connecticut. Ms. Watstein regularly commissions and premiers works by her peers.

Tema performs in New York frequently at venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to Le Poisson Rouge with groups such as the Grammy-nominated Metropolis Ensemble, as well as with Ensemble ACJW, Novus, Tactus, and the Wordless Music Orchestra. She has also performed with the Mark Morris Dance Group Ensemble and the Argento New Music Project. Tema is equally at home whether performing electronic music, improvising, or programming Bach and Ligeti side by side. In Summer 2011, she was a member of the New Fromm Quartet at Tanglewood, where she has served as concertmaster for the past two summers under Kurt Mazur and Robert Spano. As a Fromm Player, Tema premiered and recorded many pieces by the Tanglewood Festival’s composition fellows. She has performed at the Lucerne Festival under Pierre Boulez and with both SYZYGY and the Da Camera chamber music societies of Houston, where she served as a director of the “Around Hear” annual outdoor contemporary music concert series. Internationally, performances have taken Tema to Canada, Europe, Israel, and Africa. 

Tema received her Master of Music in the Contemporary Performance Program at the Manhattan School of Music and completed her Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance magna cum laude from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. She is a two-time recipient of the Sviatoslav Richter Fund for Music Outreach as well as the Mrs. Robert L. Dalton Prize. Her principal teachers include Kenneth Goldsmith, Wendy Sharp, Curtis Macomber, and Kathleen Winkler.  In June 2011, she was featured in Yankee Magazine as a Tanglewood Music Center fellow; she has also appeared in Strad magazine. She is an occasional contributor the Sequenza 21 contemporary music blog.


As an aspiring psychology PhD student, Tema is completing the Psychology Certification Program at Columbia University, where she also serves as a Research Assistant in the Couples Lab.