Acclaimed conductor, pianist, singer, producer and nonprofit leader Josephine Lee has made a widespread impact in the fields of music and education through an array of engagements across the globe. Lee has worked with a sterling roster of local and international artists and currently serves as president and artistic director of the pre-eminent U.S. youth choral organization, Uniting Voices Chicago (formerly known as Chicago Children’s Choir).
Lee recently sang in the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize finalist Ted Hearne’s Place, which received a Grammy nomination for best chamber music/small ensemble performance and played to critical acclaim at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival.
Other recent artistic engagements include a collaboration with Peter CottonTale on the viral video “Together in Google’s Year in Search” (2020) and performance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” (2021), an Obama Foundation feature called “A Chorus of Hope” (2021), a conducting debut with members of the National Philharmonic at Strathmore and Grammy Award-winning artist Lisa Fischer and her band Grand Baton (2019), a collaboration with Uniting Voices Chicago and Bobby McFerrin & The SpiritYouAll Band at Ravinia Festival (2019) and the development and world premiere of “Long Way Home” (2018), a fully staged theatrical work with the Q Brothers Collective.
Other recent credits include the co-creation of the original world musical Sita Ram with David Kersnar of Lookingglass Theatre (2003, 2006, 2012); an original suite for piano and cello, Ascension, commissioned by Ballet Chicago (2017); an original piano composition, The Good Goodbyes, commissioned by Frank Chaves and River North Dance Chicago (2012); a collaboration on Chance the Rapper’s debut studio album “The Big Day” (2019) as well as a collaboration on his Grammy Award-winning “Coloring Book,” for which Lee led choruses in studio recordings and tour performances in 2016.
In 2015, Lee founded Vocality, a festival chorus consisting of CCC alumni, as well as young vocal artists from communities within and surrounding Chicago. The mission of Vocality is to exemplify the highest level of choral singing with an emphasis on excellence and diversity within its membership. Vocality made its premiere in July 2015 at the Ravinia Festival in a concert performance of Porgy and Bess with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, under Bobby McFerrin. Vocality returned to Ravinia in July 2018 in a new staged production of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, conducted by Marin Alsop, as well as the encore production in July 2019, which was filmed for a national PBS broadcast.
Lee’s past orchestral engagements include those with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Sinfonietta, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, Grant Park Orchestra, Lyric Opera Orchestra, Oregon Symphony and Sphinx Virtuosi. Future engagements include the development of a new theatrical work by J. Nicole Brooks, David Kersnar and W. Mitchell Owens III, composer-in-residence of Uniting Voices Chicago.
In her role as president and artistic director of Uniting Voices Chicago, Lee has revolutionized the field of youth choral music through cutting-edge performances of diverse repertoire and innovative collaborations with world-class artists. Through her vision and leadership, Lee has doubled the number of students served to 5,000, tripled the organization’s budget and established Uniting Voices Chicago as one of the city’s premier cultural institutions, solidifying partnerships with renowned arts organizations, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Ravinia Festival and Grant Park Orchestra and directing new works that capture the pulse of contemporary life in the global age.
Honoring her artistic leadership, Lee received the Kennedy Center’s National Committee for the Performing Arts Award for Arts Advocacy in 2018 and the Roman Nomitch Fellowship in 2012 to attend the Harvard Business School’s Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management program. She was awarded the Jesse L. Rosenberger Medal in 2014 from the University of Chicago. Lee was recently featured in “The Transformative Power of Music,” a segment on Oprah Winfrey Network’s acclaimed series “Super Soul Sunday.” Lee holds a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from DePaul University and a master’s degree in conducting from Northwestern University.
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.