Josephine Lee ’07 first discovered her ability to connect with students through song while working as a Chicago Children’s Choir conductor at a South Side school. It became apparent to Lee that music can transcend barriers and elevate the boundless potential of young people. Since 1998 Lee has been pivotal to the success of the CCC, which provides creative youth development and performance opportunities to more than 5,000 children, ages 8 to 18.
Lee had been with CCC for a year when the choir’s leadership offered her a larger platform for her artistry. She had been preparing for her next chapter, with plans to attend the Juilliard School, but she was so inspired by the children that she couldn’t leave. “I fell in love with their talent and their spirit,” she says.
In 1999 Lee became the choir’s artistic director. One of her first students in the advanced ensemble was Ted Hearne. Lee immediately recognized his potential. He is now a noted composer and recording artist.
In 2018 Hearne wrote Place, a 75-minute musical work that considers gentrification and displacement. Hearne wrote Lee into the piece and brought in CCC singers to help amplify parts of the composition.
Lee, who earned her master’s degree in conducting at Northwestern, is now president and artistic director of the CCC. She received her first Grammy nomination this year for her role in Place. She says she feels blessed to have been involved with her former pupil’s creation. “I am pleased. I’m proud. I am bursting with joy.”