Player Spotlight ~ Dr. Helen Liu ~ Member The Waitiki 7 Exotica Band, Violinist, Teacher

Opus 465, 1713 “Rosenblith” Strad violin, 2002

My violin has accompanied me everywhere from Asia to Europe to Hawaii, experiencing many different climates. I'm very impressed with Doug's craftsmanship that makes it so hardy and durable, yet sensitive to my temperament and so easy to play. I love its robust and dark lower range that supports the powerful projection of the higher end which inspires me to develop my own voice. It is a simply beautiful instrument that I hope to keep for a very long time.

Dr. Helen LiuViolinist Helen Liu, a native of Potomac, MD, began studying the violin at age six and is an active performer and educator in solo, chamber and orchestral settings. She currently performs with the new Hawaii Symphony and is a performer with Ebb and Flow Arts concert series in Maui. Dr. Liu is also committed to the role of music in education and has taught students at the elementary, secondary, and collegiate levels.

She is currently on the violin and chamber music faculty at Punahou School, Iolani School, BYU-Hawaii, and serves as a string clinician at Hawaii Youth Symphony’s Pacific Music Institute since the summer of 2006. Dr. Liu holds degrees in violin performance from Stony Brook University (D.M.A.), New England Conservatory (M.M. and G.D. with Concentration in Music-in-Education), and University of Maryland – College Park (B.M.) where her principal teachers include Pamela Frank, Philip Setzer, James Buswell, and Daniel Heifetz. Her chamber music experience was molded by members of world-renowned ensembles such as the Mendelssohn, Cleveland, Guarneri, Borromeo and Emerson String Quartets. She has also spent many summers with the Aspen Music Festival (CO), Castleton Festival (VA), Longy International Baroque Institute (MA), National Repertory Orchestra (CO), National Orchestral Institute (MD), Boston University Tanglewood Institute (MA), and the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria. Prior to settling in Honolulu in late 2011, Dr. Liu devoted much of her time in Boston and New York, teaching and freelancing with various professional orchestras including Portland Symphony, Orchestra of Indian Hill, New Bedford Symphony, and the Harvard Baroque Chamber Ensemble.

In addition to her classical and baroque performances, she is a founding player with The WAITIKI 7, a critically- and popularly-acclaimed modern exotica ensemble, with whom she has recorded the albums Adventures in Paradise and New Sounds of Exotica. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and discovering new tastes in food and drink with her husband and double-bassist, Randy Wong.


WAITIKI 7 embraces the pulse and ambiance of exotica, while adding its own stamp thanks to the diverse jazz, classical, and folk backgrounds its seven members bring to the group. Improvisation and more expansive, expressive solos, something rarely heard in carefully scored classic exotica, play a major role in shaping the band’s sound, as do unexpected instruments from violin to woodwinds of all shapes and sizes.

Hailed by critics from National Public Radio, Jazziz, JazzTimes, Mother Jones, Giant Robot, ALARM, GoodNewMusic.com, AllAboutJazz.com, AllMusic.com, Audiophile Audition, and many other music and cultural publications, WAITIKI 7 made exotica history when both its albums simultaneously topped the JazzWeek and CMJ radio charts.

The band’s music pays homage to Martin Denny, the exotica pioneer with whom several band members had the privilege to work with before his death. Exotica’s tropical soundscapes, Latin dance grooves, and potent jazz chops became mainstays on turntables around the world. Often mischaracterized as kitsch, exotica was born in Hawaii’s vibrant postwar music scene and went mainstream when musicians like Martin Denny performed on national television shows like American Bandstand, Andy Williams, and Steve Allen.

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