Kari Watson

Kari Watson
Cohort Year: 2020
Research Interests: Embodiment and Identity within Contemporary Composition, Music and Embodied Cognition
Education: BM, Oberlin Conservatory of Music


Kari Watson is a composer and sound artist working between the mediums of contemporary concert music and electroacoustic music. Motivated by a passion for narrative and musical drama, Watson works to create music that is clear, tactile, and emotionally driven. With roots in vocal study and performance, her work is informed by the vocal line and often incorporates text. Her work has been premiered in the United States and abroad by several ensembles, including the Friction Quartet, the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra, Ensemble MISE-EN, the Rosetta Contemporary Ensemble, the SOLI Chamber Ensemble, and Oberlin’s Sinfonietta and Contemporary Music Ensemble under the direction of Tim Weiss. 

Watson’s work has been featured in a variety of concerts and festivals, most recently on the 2020 New Music Gathering. She has received several grants to further her work, such as the Oberlin Conservatory’s Flint Initiative Grant, and the XART award. Watson has also pursued a love of creative communities by participating in and interning at artist residencies, such as Arts Letters & Numbers, and the MacDowell Colony.  

In recent projects, Watson has embraced interdisciplinary collaboration, composing music for interactive installations, and multimedia projects. Current projects include composing for the Ekmeles vocal ensemble and Sandbox Percussion, as well as an upcoming collaboration with the Huxford Symphony Orchestra.   

In tandem with her compositional practice, Watson works to promote inclusivity within classical music, both within spaces she inhabits, as well as in larger projects that create infrastructure to support the work of those underrepresented in composition. She is also a co-founder of Oberlin’s Women, Trans and Non-binary composer collective, the KOI Collective. Additionally, she is also a private composition teacher, working with middle and high school students since 2018. 

Watson holds a BM from Oberlin Conservatory in Composition, with a minor in TIMARA (technology in music and related arts).