Rita Porfiris (born 16 July 1969) is an American violist and arranger based in Canton, Connecticut.
Born in New York to parents of Greek and Chinese descent, Porfiris began the violin at age five as a Suzuki Method violin student. At age nine she started playing with the conductorless chamber orchestra group Tucson Junior Strings.
While in junior high school she started playing the viola and three years later won the Arizona American String Teacher’s Association Grand Prize. A formative experience of her early musical life was her membership in Young Audiences, traveling to border towns in Mexico to play chamber music for young children. In 1986 she was named a National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts Scholar.
In 1988 as a member of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Orchester she accompanied Leonard Bernstein on his first concert tour back to the Soviet Union since 1959.
She earned two degrees from the Juilliard School and attended the Salzburg Mozarteum. Her viola studies were with William Lincer and Paul Doktor, and chamber music studies with Norbert Brainin of the Amadeus Quartet, Harvey Shapiro, and members of the Juilliard Quartet.
The early career of Rita Porfiris started as a member and rotating principal violist of the New World Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas, where she also performed as soloist. While there she formed the Plymouth Quartet, which went on to win a prize at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and receive Austria’s Prix Mercure. With the quartet she toured South America and Europe, and was in-residence at Florida International University. At the age of 24 she joined the Houston Symphony. In 1997 she won second prize at the Primrose International Viola Competition and joined the faculty at the University of Houston Moores School of Music. She remained at the Houston Symphony and Moores School until 2009, when she joined the faculty of The Hartt School at the University of Hartford, where she now serves as Associate Professor of Viola and Chair of Chamber Music. She has also been on the faculty of New York University.
Her articles on physical fitness and the viola and on related topics have been published in the Journal of the American Viola Society and she was featured on the July-August 1998 cover of Symphony Magazine for playing an ergonomic viola.
She has served on the jury for the Washington International Competition for Strings and was a selection committee member for the United States Fulbright Scholar Program.
She performs regularly as a soloist and chamber musician. She is the violist in the Miller-Porfiris Duo with her husband, violinist Anton Miller.
Rita Porfiris has commissioned and performed the world premiere or U.S. premiere of many solo and chamber works for the viola. Composers she has premiered and/or commissioned include Errollyn Wallen, Max Lifchitz, Frank Wallace, Peter Aviss, Ken Steen, Mario Diaz Gavier, David Ashley White, Robert Avalon, and others.
She has recorded (as well as commissioning and premiering) the Lifchitz Confrontaçion for Viola and Chamber Orchestra with the North/South Ensemble; Errollyn Wallen’s Five Postcards; a chamber version of Strauss’ Don Quixote by and with cellist Laszlo Varga; and recorded the first complete collection of Robert Fuchs’ Twelve Duets.
Partial list of recorded works for solo viola or chamber:
She has also arranged many works for viola and orchestra, violin and viola, and viola ensemble.