Tenor Finds His Classical Voice in Storrs

Albert Lee (Photo courtesy of Albert Lee)

Albert Lee ’98 (SFA)

Albert Lee ’98 (SFA) grew up in New Haven singing in his church and throughout his years in school before arriving in Storrs to study business.

“I never saw music as career,” says Lee, a tenor and now director of the Nevada Chamber Opera at the University of Nevada-Reno, who will be a featured soloist on Dec. 5 with the UConn Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. “It was always something I did as a hobby. It was a love, a passion.”

However after he was invited to an audition by Donald Pyle and Virginia Pyle, members of the faculty in the School of Fine Arts, he was offered a scholarship to pursue his passion in the classroom.

“They took me under their wing and got me on a path toward my degree and to graduate school,” Lee says recalling the mentorship of Virginia Pyle, now retired in Florida and still an advisor, and her late husband, who was the associate dean of the School of Fine Arts.

While in Storrs, Lee was a fixture singing the “The Star Spangled Banner” before men’s and women’s basketball games, at events hosted by the African American Cultural Center, activities of the Department of Music, and other campus events as part of vocal ensembles.

He was a member of the chorus that sang during the 1995 dedication of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center attended by President Bill Clinton. And he performed the National Anthem at the inauguration of President Philip Austin in 1997, and at graduation ceremonies in 1998, when President George H.W. Bush was Commencement speaker.

Albert Lee, right, tenor, returned to campus in 2001 to perform Mozart's Requiem Mass at the Jorgensen, along with Mark Womac, baritone, University students, faculty, and staff, and members of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, in memory of those affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Albert Lee, right, tenor, returned to campus in 2001 to perform Mozart’s Requiem Mass at the Jorgensen, along with Mark Womac, baritone, University students, faculty, and staff, and members of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, in memory of those affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

“I was immersed in performing around the UConn community. It was what I did for four years,” says Lee, who went on to earn a Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School and a Doctor of Music at Florida State University. “My freshman year I won a state and regional competition and in the spring got a small role in ‘La Bohème.’ These little things encouraged me to stay on track.”

After completing his work at Juilliard, Lee began his professional singing career around the United States, at venues including the Opera Theater of Saint Louis, Palm Beach Opera, Philadelphia Orchestra, Collegiate Chorale of New York City, Caramoor International Music Festival Saint Luke’s Chamber Orchestra, and the Aspen Festival.

Working with the Kentucky Opera in 2003, he was invited to participate in the American Spiritual Ensemble, which works to preserve and expand the performance of Negro Spirituals in domestic and international performances, and he continues to perform with the organization. Last year he performed in Rome with the International Opera Theater as part of the world premiere performance of “Buffalo Soldier,” an opera based on the segregated 92nd U.S. Infantry that fought in Italy during World War II.

Lee is looking forward to his return to Storrs as a featured soloist.

“Coming back to UConn is coming back to the place where classical voice found me. It gets back to the foundation of everything I know about singing,” he says. “Beethoven’s Ninth is one of the monumental works of western civilization, one of the great works of orchestral repertory. To get an opportunity as a soloist is a big deal.”

Beethoven’s 9th Symphony will be performed Dec. 5 at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on a program with Schubert’s “Magnificat” and “Antiphon” by Vaughn Williams featuring the UConn Symphony Orchestra and Concert Choir, UConn Festival Chorus, and the Chamber Singers from both Edwin O. Smith and Farmington High Schools. Featured soloists will also include two faculty members, soprano Constance Rock ’05 DMA, alto Meredith Ziegler ’02 (SFA), ’04 MM, and bass Anthony Leathem, a doctoral candidate. For more information, go to the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts website.