Vannia Phillips is passionate about the viola and violin. She plays and teaches both professionally. While earning her BA in philosophy at Villanova University, she studied with Sidney Curtiss of The Philadelphia Orchestra, played in the Philadelphia Youth orchestra, and performed chamber music at The University of the Arts. She toured South America with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra.
Vannia’s philosophy professor and mentor, Dr. John Immerwahr, encouraged her love of music and inspired her to continue her music studies at Oberlin Conservatory, where she studied with Jeff Irvine and Lynne Ramsey and earned a Bachelor of Music. At DePaul University, Vannia studied with Rami Solomonov and completed her Master of Music in Performance.
As a teacher Vannia shares her passion with her students. She studied Suzuki pedagogy with Edward Kreitman, Nancy Jackson, and Tom Wermuth at the Western Springs School for Talent Education and with Michelle George at the Music Institute of Chicago.
Vannia is on faculty at the Music Institute of Chicago. Previously, she taught at the Suzuki-Orff School and the Musical Offering. In addition, she taught at the Fairbanks, Alaska, Fine Arts Camp, Louisville Suzuki Summer Institute, and was a clinician for the Music Academy of Rockford College.
From 1995 to 1996, Vannia was violist of the Graduate String Quartet at Wichita State University and a member of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. From 1996 to 2004, Vannia was the violist of Lyra Quartet, the Quartet-in-Residence at Carthage College. She held the position of principal violist of the Kenosha Symphony Orchestra from 1996 to 2004.
Vannia with composer John Adams
Vannia has performsed often with the Chicago Opera Theater, an ensemble in which she had the honor of working with composer and conductor John Adams during the Chicago premiere of his opera The Flowering Tree and most recently performed in the Chicago premier of Charpentier’s Médée. Most recently (2020), she played in the premier of Freedom Ride. She was the violist in the string quartet of the Chicago production of The Color Purple. More recently, she was the violist in the Chicago production of An American Story. She has been a member of the Chicago Sinfonietta since 1998. She has worked with Ars Viva, Fulcrum Point, Joffrey Ballet, Chicago Jazz Orchestra, Chicago Philharmonic, the Center for Black Music Research of Columbia College (CBMR), and Elgin Symphony. She has recorded numerous times with the Sinfonietta and CBMR. During her first eight years in Chicago, she frequently escaped its winter weather to perform with the Key West Symphony.
Performing on Mornings with Whitney
A lover of period instrument music, Vannia worked with Marilyn McDonald, playing in the baroque orchestra at OberlinConservatory. She later studied at the International Baroque Festival at Longy, where she performed in masterclasses with Elizabeth Blumenstock and Dana Maiben. In Chicago she has played baroque viola with Baroque Band, Chicago Opera Theater, and Urban Baroque. She has performed on WFMT with Baroque Band. Vannia can be heard on Baroque Band’s recording of Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s Mensa Sonora and the soon-to-be-released recording of the complete overtures by English composer Maurice Greene (1696-1755). These recordings are on the Cedille label.
Vannia also enjoys contemporary, popular music. She has recorded and performed with international artists including Mono, Depravos de la Mour, James McCartney, Chuck Prophet, and Sleeping at Last. She has performed with artists Stevie Wonder, Bernadette Peters, Vince Gill, Ben Vereen, Al Jareau, Smoky Robinson, Brian Wilson, Jerry Lewis, Heather Headley, and Barry Manilow. She appeared with the rapper Commom on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and with Josh Groban on Oprah. She recently performed as part of a string quartet on an episode of the TV series Empire. In the Chicago area, she has joined with Quartet Parapluie in recording sessions and performances with singer/songer Steve Dawson and Funeral Bonsai Wedding. They have recently appeared at the Hideout, Constellation, and Square Roots Festival.
Performing with actor Martin Sheen