Stephen Waarts, born July 1996, started his violin studies in the Bay Area, California at age 5 and piano studies at age 8. After graduating from both high school (at the School for Independent Learners at Los Altos) and the San Francisco Conservatory Preparatory at age 14, he is currently pursuing a bachelor of music at Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he holds, for the third year, the Frank S. Bayley Annual Fellowship. Since age 11, Waarts has been performing with numerous professional and community orchestras all over the world, playing a large repertoire including many rarely performed violin concertos. Winner of the 2014 Menuhin Competition-Senior Section, where he was awarded in addition to First prize also the Bach prize and the Composer prize, and of the 2013 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, where he was awarded in addition to First prize also the Buffalo Chamber Music Society Prize, the Albany Symphony Prize, the Rhoda Walker Teagle Debut Prize, the Paul A. Fish Prize, the Sander Buchman Prize and The Ronald A. Asherson Prize, as well as winner in numerous other international violin competitions, including the 2013 Montreal International Musical Competition, the 2011 Sarasate Competition, the 2010 Menuhin Competition-Junior Section, and the 2010 Spohr Competition-Junior Section, Waarts has received acclaim in several continents. On his prize winning performances the Montreal Gazette commented: "there's little point trying to wrap words around his talent…" Le Devoir Libre de penser: "The winner of my heart…when he starts to play, something happens" (translated from French). La Scena Musicale: "...technical perfection and great beauty of tone… a presence on stage that commands attention… his playing soars over the orchestra…" Strings magazine: "he (Waarts) turned heads and captured hearts with an unexpectedly sophisticated Ravel Sonata in G major and an emotionally confused (appropriately so) reading of Karol Szymanowski's ecstatic Nocturne and Tarantella." The UK's Daily Telegraph: "…something special,... not just the mechanical wonder, but a soul." And the Strad magazine: "from the first note... I was hooked, and within a few bars I was moved to tears... such an experience is rare... Although it is possible to analyze it (Waarts' playing)... perhaps it is better not to try... truly poetic and sincere".
Waarts has performed in Canada, Germany, Spain, Norway, Moscow-Russia and at venues in numerous states in the US including at New York's Carnegie Hall, in Philadelphia, Texas, San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as at hundreds of concerts in the Bay Area. Future performances include a debut recital at the Louvre, Paris-France in their Young Artists Series, as well as debut recitals in the Young Concert Artists Series in New York, Washington, D.C. at the Kennedy Center, and at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Waarts has played, often multiple times, with the Cleveland Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Austin Symphony, Staatskapelle Weimar Orchestra, Navarra Symphony, Kostroma Symphony, San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, Fremont Symphony, Symphony Parnassus, Redwood Symphony, Silicon Valley Symphony, Saratoga Symphony, Solano Symphony, Prometheus Symphony, and multitude other orchestras. Starting at age 11, playing the technically challenging Paganini Concerto No. 1 and Wieniawski Concerto No. 1, he has played over 35 violin concertos. In addition to main violin repertoire he has performed many rarely performed concertos including Berg Concerto, Castelnuovo-Tedesco "Prophets" Violin Concerto, Szymanowski Concerto No. 1, Paganini Violin Concerto No. 2, Walton Violin Concerto, Mendelssohn violin Concerto in D minor, Wieniawski Concerto No. 1, and Ernst Concerto in F-sharp minor. His concerts have been both critically acclaimed and popular successes. To quote from a few reviews: On his recent Prokofiev Concerto No. 2 performance in Austin it was written: "The music fits together like a complex and intricate clock made by a madman genius. It sounds wrong when it's right, and so how does one know if it's right? On this night, I finally knew. I heard a few things I hadn't heard before…" (violinist.com), and also: "...a blazing and supremely assured performance... It's a tricky, moody piece, but Waarts made of it a seamless, gripping episode." (Cleveland.com) And: "A shockingly mature, nuanced performance of Prokofiev's second violin concerto…" (Austin360.com) On his Brahms Violin Concerto performance in Montreal: "Stephen Waarts seems to have put his whole being into one thing: his violin. He draws in a noble Brahms sound reminiscent Milstein and impresses a continuous thought, from beginning to end..." (Lapresse-Montreal). And on a performance of the Castelnuovo-Tedesco Prophets Concerto with the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony: "Hands down hit of the evening was the young violinist Stephen Waarts... delivered a masterful performance of a complex and demanding work. This reviewer had the privilege of taking a few lessons from Tedesco myself back in the '60's... I believe he would have been overjoyed to hear what Stephen Waarts and the LAJS did with his concerto..." (Baruch Cohon) On a performance of Mendelssohn in E minor Concerto with Silicon Valley Symphony in the Bay Area, CA: "the emotion-evoking quality of his sound... bring me to tears with that rare beauty" "extraordinary technique" (San Mateo Daily Journal).
At the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, Waarts studies violin with Aaron Rosand (with whom he had been collaborating occasionally since early 2010). At Curtis he also continues his piano studies with Annie Petit, continues his general music studies, learns also conducting, and is a member of the acclaimed Curtis orchestra. Since April 2005 Waarts has been a student at the studio of Bay Area based violin pedagogue Li Lin. He joined the San Francisco Conservatory, Preparatory Division in 2009, as a scholarship student, continuing his studies with Li Lin, and also studying musicianship and composition, often writing his own cadenzas for concertos, in addition to making other compositions. Concurrently, since 2009, he has studied also with Alexander Barantschik, Concertmaster of San Francisco Symphony, and with Baroque violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock, and since 2010 he is also a student at the Perlman Music Program, headed by Itzhak Perlman. Waarts started his music education with violin lessons as part of a Suzuki violin program with Krishnabai Lewis and continued lessons with Jenny Rudin. He started piano studies with Steve Lightburn and since June 2006 he continued them with Irina Sharogradski. A passionate chamber music player, he has been part of the Music at Menlo program led by David Finckel and Wu Han for 4 summers since 2005, and he continues his chamber playing at the Curtis Institute and at the Perlman Program. During Waarts' frequent visits to his Bay area home he continues his close collaboration with his long time violin teacher Li Lin and continues working with local orchestras and volunteering recitals at local retirement communities.
Apart from his wide interest in music, Waarts is also an enthusiastic mathematician (having won many national math awards) and visual artist