Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor, Chamber Music Faculty
Kenny Lee has established himself as an outstanding artist and leader both on the podium and as a cellist. Praised for his “lyricism, drive, tenderness, and passion” (The Times Argus), he has performed as a conductor, recitalist, and chamber musician throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.
Recent conducting highlights include collaborations with the Jerusalem Symphony, Moravská Filharmonie Olomouc, Lviv National Philharmonic, Midcoast Symphony Orchestra, Exeter Symphonia, and Gwinnett Chamber Orchestra. For the past three years, he has successfully led the Western Illinois University’s Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra with thrilling performances. Lee is ecstatic to be joining the CSYO team as the new conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra beginning in Fall 2023.
Recent cello performance highlights include solo and concerto appearances in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Boston’s Jordan Hall, and Eastman Kodak Hall. He recently performed concerti by Dvorak, Haydn, and Gulda and has appeared as a soloist with the Atlanta Sinfonia, Eastman Philharmonia, Jordan Winds, and Eugene Symphony. He has collaborated as a soloist with conductors such as Giancarlo Guerro, Neil Varon, and William Drury.
Lee’s musical journeys have led him to collaborations with several esteemed artists, including principal players of the Berlin Philharmonic, members of the Juilliard, Cleveland, Borromeo, and Ying Quartets. Festival appearances have included Rockport Chamber Music Festival, Thy Chamber Music Festival in Denmark, Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival, Taos Chamber Music Festival, and Piatigorsky International Cello Festival. Lee is also the co-founder and artistic director of the Flatirons Chamber Music Festival, a non-profit organization in Boulder, Colorado.
As a recording artist, he has recorded chamber music for Klavier Records and is currently working to release Friedrich Gulda’s Cello Concerto. Lee is also in the process of preparing his debut CD of unaccompanied works for cello.
Lee is a top prize winner of several competitions, including the Seventeenth International Conductor’s Workshop and Competition, New York International Artists Competition, Hudson Valley String Competition, Borromeo Guest Artist Competition, Eastman Concerto Competition, and New England Conservatory Honors Chamber Music Competition as the founding member of the Gioviale Quartet.
Born in Seoul, South Korea, Lee grew up in Oregon and began studying music at the age of 10. Lee’s musical mentors have included Laurence Lesser, Paul Katz, Steven Doane, and Steven Pologe. He has also worked with Hans Jørgen Jensen, Pieter Wispelwey, Lluis Claret, Ralph Kirshbaum, and Frans Helmerson. His conducting teachers have included Steven Sloane, Carl St. Clair, and Charles Peltz. Lee graduated from the Eastman School of Music as a recipient of the John Celentano Award for Excellence in Chamber Music. He earned his Masters and Doctorate degrees from the New England Conservatory with honors.
Lee is a dedicated teacher and is currently the cello professor and orchestra director at Western Illinois University.
What was the first ensemble you played in?
The first real ensemble I played in was a youth orchestra in my hometown in Eugene, Oregon!
Fun facts about you that might surprise people?
I can bake a nice loaf of Challah, I was on a varsity tennis team in high school, and I once had a pet gecko named Spot.