The Kennedy Center

Novella Chamber Players


The Novella Chamber Players are an ensemble of string players who collaborate with other instrumentalists. In a time when music is often digitized and streamed and comes out of tiny headphones, they are dedicated to the immediacy and intensity of a live performance. The chamber music repertoire gives an opportunity to feel the impact of great music in more intimate settings, leading to powerful musical experiences for those present. The Novella Chamber Players are the resident ensemble of the Falls Church ArtSpace in Virginia.

Xi Chen began studying the violin when she was eight. She was accepted by the prestigious Central Conservatory of Music preparatory division at the age of twelve. After moving to the US, Xi earned her Bachelor's and Master's degrees of music from Temple University under the guidance of Helen Kwalwasser. Her recitals had been live- broadcasted by WFLN, the classical radio station of Philadelphia. Xi was the leader of the Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra. Music performance invitations have brought Xi to Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Brazil, Puerto Rico and the East Coast of the United States. She has been performing as a member of the Kennedy Center/Washington National Opera Orchestra and the Washington String Quartet since 1998.

Uri Wassertzug has performed in many places around the world including Alaska, the UK, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand. Since 1998 he has been a member of the Kennedy Center Opera House/ Washington National Opera Orchestra, as well as the Sun Valley Summer Symphony. He has played with many other symphony and opera orchestras as well. As a chamber musician, Uri has been a member and a guest performer with many groups, and frequently appears on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage concerts series. Uri is on the faculties of both George Washington University and Howard University. His had pursued his own studies at the University of Maryland, the Aspen Music Festival, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music; some of his teachers, like Isadore Tinkleman and Robert Becker, included the members of the Guarneri Quartet. Also, a coffee aficionado, Uri has been roasting his own coffee beans for several years. He lives in Virginia with his wife, violinist Elizabeth Field, and their son.

Elizabeth Davis, cellist, made her solo debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony at age 15. Studying with Yehuda Hanani, she earned her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University. For seven years, she played with the Alabama Symphony and then in 1992, Ms. Davis became the Assistant Principal Cellist of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra and the Washington National Opera Orchestra. She plays in many chamber groups and performs frequently on the Millennium Stage concert series at the Kennedy Center.

Pianist Patrick O’Donnell is currently on the faculty of the Levine School of Music in Washington, DC, as piano teacher and vocal coach. He is an exceptional pianist whose finely tuned musical and collaborative abilities are in high demand, and he has been featured in recitals with several of his colleagues from the Levine School.  He most recently appeared with Lora Ferguson, a clarinet player, in a recital at the Church of the Epiphany, featuring works by both Mozart and Bruch. He also serves as a faculty accompanist for student recitals and competitions at the Levine School, including the annual Prism Concert held at the Terrace Theater of the Kennedy Center and the Showcase Concert at La Maison Française of the French Embassy and the Round House Theater in Bethesda, MD.

Dr. O’Donnell is one of the master coaches and a featured guest artist at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival in Fairbanks, Alaska, where he collaborated with mezzo-soprano Louise Urban and baritone Dominic Cossa. At the festival he coached and accompanied singers in opera workshop recitals and performances. He is also on the faculty of the Washington National Opera’s Education Department as vocal coach and history teacher for the Opera Institute for Young Singers, and has worked as pianist/coach for their Opera Camp for Kids.

He served for two seasons as assistant artistic administrator for the Virginia Opera, as well as children’s chorus director and the music director for one of Virginia Opera’s touring programs. Dr. O’Donnell was an active participant with Virginia Opera’s Spectrum Resident Artist Program as coach and accompanist working with singers in concert and opera venues throughout Virginia. He also served as music director for the world premiere of Seymour Barab's “Cinderella,” and has collaborated on the development of “Oh, Freedom!” and “I Hear America Singing,” which have been performed at more than 500 schools and communities from Delaware to North Carolina. He earned his BA from Yale University, his MM in Piano Performance from The University of Maryland, and his DMA in Chamber Music and Vocal Accompaniment with Martin Katz at the University of Michigan.
Novella Chamber Players