Nicole McKenzie

NICOLE MCKENZIE has performed widely as soloist and chamber musician. The Santa Barbara Independent declared, “McKenzie made a splash in the luscious and exciting music – she performed with gorgeous musicality.”

Winner of the Sutton Chamber Music Award, she graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy, earned a BM Degree from Oberlin Conservatory, an MM Degree from Florida State University, and studied with Gary Kosloski at the Music Academy of the West. Ms. McKenzie is Concertmaster of the Santa Barbara Folk Orchestra. She maintains a private violin studio, co-directs and teaches for Sandcastle Music Together, Coaches chamber music at Santa Barbara

Strings, is a member of the duo, Continental Cafe, directs and teaches at Allegro Violin Camp, was a founding member of the Nicole McKenzie Improv Group (an improvising group of dancers and musicians), was a long time member of the Klezmer/Jazz group, Kalinka, and regularly concertizes with renowned pianist, Betty Oberacker. She performs on a violin created for her by Michel Eggimann of Rome, Italy.

Kathie Kottler

KKottlerCHICOKathie has been a member of CHICO since 2008. She plays on a French violin approximately 100 years old. She started playing violin in elementary school and played in school orchestras through UC Irvine where she received a B.A. in dance and music. She subsequently played with community orchestras in Santa Barbara, Concord and Ventura. In addition to performing with CHICO, she plays in a string quartet with friends.

Ruth Kay


Ruth earned her Bachelor of Music degree at CS University Fullerton. She has performed in many different symphonies & chamber groups. Most recently the Burbank Symphony, Conejo Valley Symphony, Santa Maria Philharmonic, Santa Maria Pops Orchestra & the Ventura Baroque Strings. She is a true second violinist who loves the moving underlying themes, creating fullness to a simple melody & lower tones of the violin. She has taught children & adults for many years in her living room teaching studio giving them opportunities to play solos in recitals & preparing for auditions. She now lives in Camarillo with her husband and little dog Maggie and currently performs with the Channel Island Chamber Orchestra and Moorpark Symphony & Footworks Ballet Company Orchestra.

Liz Watts

LizWatts Originally from England, Liz Watts never actually chose to play the violin. A pianist from the age of four, she wanted to play the flute (which she tried for a few years … it was a disaster!). As a teenager, she won a full scholarship to study piano and violin at the Royal College of Music, Junior Department in London for seven years. Liz completed her bachelor of music degree with honors from the University of Manchester, and a Post-Graduate Certificate of Education from Leeds University (two subjects: music & outdoor education). Liz taught violin and viola full-time for the Cleveland Music Service and the North Yorkshire Music Service before moving to California with her husband in 1997.

As a young adult, Liz’s love of playing 2nd violin began when she was appointed as principal 2nd violin with the National Scout and Guide Symphony Orchestra (U.K.). Since then she has briefly served as principal 2nd violin with the Cal Lutheran University Symphony (Thousand Oaks) and is currently the assistant principal 2nd violin with the Moorpark Symphony Orchestra and principal 2nd violin with CHICO. As a community-minded professional violinist, Liz has performed with many groups in and around Ventura County. Some of the recent highlights have included performances with the pit orchestra for Nordhoff High School’s annual musical (Ojai), Footworks Ballet Orchestra (Oxnard), The Master’s College Orchestra (Santa Clarita), Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, and Lompoc Pops Orchestra. In addition to her duties as CHICO’s principal 2nd violin, Liz currently serves as CHICO’s Librarian.

In recent years, Liz developed an interest in music performance anxiety. In the fall of 2015, she was admitted to the Graduate School of Psychology at Cal Lutheran University to begin working part-time on a master’s degree in clinical psychology. Also related to her academic success, Liz works in the Math Center at Moorpark College tutoring elementary statistics and algebra.

In her spare time (!!), Liz enjoys spending time with her husband and their beloved German shepherd dog at their home in Moorpark.

Karen Nelson


Karen Nelson grew up in Riverside, California. During her high school and college years at UC Riverside, she played with the  Riverside Symphony, Redlands Bowl Orchestra and University of Redlands Orchestra.

During her undergraduate years, Karen attended a study program in Göttingen Germany and played with the University Symphony. During those years she met fellow student Jim Wimmer who asked to borrow her violin for closer inspection, and that led to Jim’s extensive apprenticeship with violin makers in Germany.

Since moving to the Central Coast in 1983, Karen played with the Ventura County Symphony and Santa Barbara Civic Light Opera.

In 1990 Karen received a Master’s degree in education from USCB. She has taught bilingual and special education in the public schools for many years.

Karen joined CHICO when it was founded in 1993. She also enjoys participating in weekly services with her church band, and fiddling with Irish musician friends.