“Cello is one of the most beautifully sounding instruments as it mirrors the range and tone qualities heard in the human voice.” ~Wesley Skinner
Wesley Skinner, a classically-trained concert cellist, is well-versed in a variety of genres including theater, rock, jazz, folk and bluegrass. He currently serves as cellist and founding member of the Laniakea String Quartet, an internationally performing string quartet composed of two doctoral students and two doctoral alumni from the ASU School of Music.
As a chamber musician, Wesley has collaborated with a number of renowned musicians including principals and section members of the LA Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the Houston Symphony, the Nashville Symphony, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic.
Wesley told us, “I was a homeschooled student from K through 12 and I cannot emphasize the impact that music made on myself and my siblings in our homeschool education. My four siblings and I went onto study at schools such as Rice University, Johns Hopkins University, Northwestern University, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and the Cleveland Institute of Music. I believe that involving music in our lives helped us excel in many other areas of study.”
Wesley holds Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral degrees in cello performance and cello pedagogy (with an emphasis in child education) from the Cleveland Institute of Music and Arizona State University. He is also a fully trained instructor in The Suzuki Cello Method, having completed all ten books.
“While taking the Suzuki Teacher Training course,” Wesley said, “I found that it was most successful to teach while taking the course [and] I truly enjoyed teaching as an equal passion to performance.”
In Ohio, Wesley held faculty positions in the Western Reserve Suzuki School, the Hudson School of Music, and in Lakewood City Schools. He was also appointed to the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) preparatory program faculty, having fully mastered the art of teaching.
Now living in Arizona, Wesley Skinner offers private lessons and chamber coachings in the Phoenix area. Wesley maintains a private studio of 35+ students in addition to working with Harmony Project (Phoenix’s El Sistema Program). He also teaches as a professional clinician at Phoenix area middle and high schools, as well as coaching youth orchestra cello sections.
As a teacher, Wesley combines the philosophy of his Suzuki Teacher Training, the rigors of his conservatory-level teaching style, and his experience outside of the classical genre into a comprehensive approach to all levels and styles. Most of his students range from 6-18 years of age, but Wesley has taught students from age 3 all the way to 65. He works as well with young children as he does with older students.
In describing his teaching style, Wesley said, “My goal in the early stages of working with a new student is to identify learning style, practice load, as well as strengths and weaknesses of technique and musicality. These points will help determine the pace and approach to the early lessons.”
Wesley’s solo competition top prize wins include the 2014 Cleveland Institute of Music Concerto Competition, 2015 Paducah Symphony Young Artist Competition (KY), 2015 Tennessee Cello Workshop, 2015 Lewisville Lake Symphony International String Competition (TX), and the 2016 ASU Concerto Competition. In the Spring of 2018, the Hillel Jewish Student Center awarded Wesley the Joan Frazier Memorial Award for his contribution to Judaism in the Arts with his performances of Swiss-American composer Ernest Bloch’s complete works and arrangements for Cello and Piano.
Besides his exploration of contemporary American and Jewish-roots composers, Wesley pursues the equal programming of female composers and Latin American composers. In addition to his concerto performances from the previously mentioned competitions, Wesley has appeared as a concert soloist at the Hot Springs Arkansas Music Festival, and with both Cleveland-area and Phoenix-area ensembles. For the past six summers, he served as a technique presenter for the Lev Aronson Cello Festival in Dallas, Texas.
Known for his innovative programming such as Bach & Beer pairings with the Huss Brewing Co. in Tempe, Arizona, Wesley has even pioneered cross-disciplinary collaborations with ballroom and break dancers. He said, “I like putting music programs together — both professional recitals/concerts as well as events in less conventional spaces. I like collaborating with other musicians to create music — old and new!”
Wesley has toured Canada and the U.S. with groups such as punk rock band Say Anything, as well as premiering new classical works with Neo Camerata Ensemble across 25 U.S. states and Canada. In 2015, Wesley Skinner and Dallas pianist Thiago X. Nascimento embarked on a six-week North American tour where they presented New Classical Music across the U.S. and Canada.
Wesley and Thiago premiered an innovative Sonata for cello and piano in Arizona and Texas in April and June of 2017. Across three contrasting movements spanning 53 minutes, they say “the music speaks to the full spectrum of human emotion, in a story that unfolds through the syntax of tuneful melodies, rich harmonies, and symphonic texture. The character of the music echoes the romantic nature of the 19th Century as well as superimposing the suspense and emotion of modern Film Scores and the heroic nature of Video Game Soundtracks.”
In January of 2019, Wesley’s Laniakea String Quartet recorded for Icelandic composer Gulli Björnsson’s premier album of chamber music which was released at Phoenix’s acclaimed composer event Oh My Ears. In February of 2019, the quartet collaborated on a number of chamber music works for ASU Faculty Recitals with Guitarist Jiyeon “JiJi” Kim and Bassoonist Albie Micklich. The Laniakea String Quartet won first prize in The Sixth (2019) Hong Kong International Chamber Music Competition, and the quartet performed at the Red Rocks Winter Chamber Music Festival in Arizona.
As a composer, Wesley Skinner won the 2017-2018 ariZoni Theater Award of Excellence in Original Music Composition for his score of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with TheaterWorks dramatic production. He was invited back to compose an original score for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in October 2018.
In 2019, he performed as a visiting artist for the University of Hainan (China) Chamber Music Performance Festival in order to promote the friendly exchange of arts and culture related to the development of the national “One Belt and One Road” strategy of the Hainan Free Trade Port.
Below is a video of Leoš Janáček’s String Quartet No. 1 “The Kreutzer Sonata” featuring Richard Li, Violin I; Toby Elser, Violin II; Javier Otalora, Viola; Wesley Skinner, Cello.