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Monica Ellis

About this Artist

Bassoonist Monica Ellis is a founding member of the Grammy-nominated wind quintet, Imani Winds, who in their 23rd season continue to make ground-breaking art while maintaining a vigorous international touring schedule.  

Monica’s strong work ethic was instilled very early on from her mother and father, the late jazz saxophonist Clarence Oden. As the administrative director & tour manager for Imani Winds, and Co-Artistic Director for the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival, she maintains a fulfilling leadership role within the group.  

As 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 realized her potential by studying with Mark Pancerev of the Pittsburgh Symphony. She went on to receive her Bachelor of Music degree from Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, studying with George Sakakeeny. While at Oberlin, her desire to connect with others flourished through her participation in the Panama Project – a month-long camp for young Panamanian students. 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.  

Imani Winds formed in 1997, when Monica along with the four other original members, realized that such a group could fill a significant void in the chamber music world. Imani Winds performs relevant and culturally significant music from the last 100 years and the next 100 years and are role models to all, but especially to the community of African- American classical wind players.  

Recording credits include seven albums with Imani Winds (Koch International Classics, EOne and EMI Classics). Monica can also be heard on the following: 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 Madrigal 

For over 20 years, she has enjoyed an active freelance career. She has performed with diverse organizations such as the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Absolute Ensemble, Bard Music Festival, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Perspectives Ensemble, and Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, just to name a few. She has also soloed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.  

A passionate teacher, Monica has been a visiting professor or on faculty at The University of Chicago, The Hartt School (CT), Purchase (NY) & Brooklyn College Conservatories of Music, Mannes School of Music and The Juilliard Schools Music Advancement Program. Also, a renowned clinician, she has given master classes and solo recital performances across the country.  

She serves on the advisory boards for Orchestra of St. Luke’s Education Committee and the Meg Quigley Vivaldi Competition & Symposium for Women Bassoonists of the Americas, as well as on the Board of Concert Artists Guild (CAG).  

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 six-year-old son, Oden.