Conductor Donald Lee III is a Virginia native and current member of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center emerging artist training program at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Since the start of his tenure in 2021, Lee has conducted the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra for many performances, including The Magic Victrola, “Rising Stars in Concert” and “Sunday in the Park with Lyric.” Most recently, Lee was assistant conductor and played piano in the orchestra pit for the world premiere of The Factotum in collaboration with Lyric Unlimited and the Harris Theater for Music and Dance.
Lee has enjoyed great accomplishments at some of the nation’s leading opera companies. In 2022, he joined Des Moines Metro Opera as associate conductor for its productions of Porgy and Bess, American Apollo and its “Stars of Tomorrow” concert. Lee also joined Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ Opera on the GO! filmed production of The Magic Flute, which included both conducting and playing piano. During his residency at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Lee successfully produced a workshop entirely in Spanish for kindergarten through high school students.
Other career highlights include a collaboration with the Chicago City-Wide Symphony Orchestra for its 2022 holiday concert and a return to Opera Theatre of St. Louis for its New Works Collective — an initiative designed to push the boundaries of opera by combining music and storytelling. Lee also shadowed Maestro Enrique Mazzola at the Deutsche Oper Berlin for a production of Les vêpres siciliennes and worked with Opera NexGen for its 2021 production of Night Trip, a new one-act opera from composer Carlos Simon and librettist Sandra Seaton.
Lee is dedicated to new works and has showcased his ability to improvise across multiple genres of music. In addition to conducting, Lee is an avid pianist and coach. He has appeared as a soloist with the James Madison University Symphony Orchestra and Eastern Music Festival Student Orchestra. He was also the first pianist to record Francis Johnson’s A Collection of New Cotillons, the oldest surviving composition published by a Black America composer.
An alumnus of James Madison University and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Lee also served as assistant professor of piano at Kentucky State University. Recent appearances include conducting the Lyric Opera Orchestra and members of the Ryan Opera Center for Rising Stars in Concert and returning to Des Moines Metro Opera for its 2023 production of Carmen as associate conductor.
Please note: Biographies are based on information provided to the CSO by the artists or their representatives. More current information may be available on websites of the artists or their management.