Sonia Lee


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Canadian scholar-performer Sonia Lee has given performances, talks and masterclasses in more than eighteen countries on four continents. Her performances have been praised by critics as "masterly" (Aliénor News & Notes), "nicely rendered" (Early Music America Magazine), "full of elegance and expression" (Cleveland Classical), and possessing "grace and flair" (Sounding Board, British Harpsichord Society).  She is a laureate of the Mae & Irving Jurow International Harpsichord Competition, the Montréal Baroque Galaxie-CBC Rising Star Competition, the Canadian Music Competition, and the American Musical Instrument Society William E. Gribbons Award.

A performer on pianos of all periods, harpsichord, clavichord, and organ with a versatile repertoire spanning from the 16th to the 21st century, she has appeared as soloist and collaborative artist at numerous festivals and venues, among them: the early music festivals of Utrecht, Boston and Costa Rica, Rome Festival, Nordic Historical Keyboard Festival, Early Keyboard Music Cycle of Buenos Aires, Midtown Concerts of New York, Milwaukee Museum of the Pianoforte, Schubert Club, Handel House Museum of London, KEK-Japan Concerts, the Early Music Colorado Fall Festival, National Music Museum of Vermillion, Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Taipei National Concert Hall, and the Olympus Hall of Seoul.

Among the esteemed groups she has worked with include the Classical Chamber Players, La Donna Musicale, Concerto Urbano, the Buon Tempo String Quartet, the Rome Festival Orchestra and Opera, Sinfonia da Camera, Concerto da Camera, Camerata Antiqua Seoul, Asia Collegium Musicum, Hong Kong Bach Choir, Les Jeunes Virtuoses de Montréal, Pittsburgh Baroque Ensemble, Musicerend Gezelschap, Amor Musicae, and La Réunion Musicale, of which she is the Founding Artistic Director.  As guest conductor, she has appeared with the University of Illinois Collegium Musicum, Dulces Exuviae, and Phantasie String Orchestra.

A strong advocate of contemporary and interdisciplinary projects, she has performed works by such prize-winning composers as Dagmar Feyen, James Dorsa, Kent Holliday, Asako Hirabayashi, Peter Machajdík, Luis Mucillo, Hyo-Shin Na, and herself. She has been invited as artist-in-residence to a variety of institutions and institutes, including the prestigious La Napoule Art Foundation in France and the Piccola accademia di Montisi in Italy.

Her discography includes collaborations with the Classical Chamber Players, La Donna Musicale, and La Réunion Musicale, featuring rediscovered music of Antonia Bembo (ca.1640–ca.1720), Joseph Weigl (1766–1846), Leopold Kozeluch (1747–1818), and Thomas Vincent (ca.1720–1783) on Mark Records, Arabesque, and other labels. Upcoming releases include the "Eight Suits of Lessons for the Harpsichord" by Georg Berg (ca.1730–1775), of which the only surviving printed copy is preserved in the private collection of Ton Koopman, and "Premier livre de pièces de clavecin" by Charles Demars (1702–1774). Her performances have been broadcast on radios in Canada, U.S., and Hong Kong.

As a scholar, Dr. Lee's interests focus on all aspects of historical keyboard instruments and rediscovered sources from the 18th and 19th centuries. Her doctoral dissertation, titled "The Harpsichord: A Research and Information Guide," is an exhaustive annotated bibliography that serves as a guide and reference manual for anyone researching the harpsichord and its related topics, including harpsichord making and maintenance, harpsichord music, and performance practice. She has contributed biographical articles on Wanda Landowska, Claudio Arrau, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Jean-Pierre Rampal, August Wenzinger, and Lauritz Melchior to two reference series, "Musicians and Composers of the 20th Century" (Salem Press, 2009) and "Great Lives from History: Latinos" (Salem Press, 2012), and has presented at conferences organized by such organizations as the American Musical Instrument Society, the Historical Keyboard Society of North America, the Southeastern and Midwestern Historical Keyboard Societies, and various music teachers associations. 

A sought after adjudicator, Lee has been invited to judge at numerous international and regional competitions and festivals, including the Antelope Valley Symphony Orchestra Bach Piano Competition, Aliénor International Harpsichord Composition Competition,  the Illinois High School Association Solo and Ensemble Contests, Calgary Performing Arts Festival, and “Gianni Gambi” International Harpsichord Competition.

She has given master classes and lecture-performances at numerous institutions, among them: Temple University (US), Millersville University (US), West Chester University (US), Calvin College (US), University of Notre Dame (US), Eastern Illinois University (US), Indiana Wesleyan University (US), Reed College (US), University of Waterloo (Canada), McGill University (Canada), University of Cambridge (UK), University of Oxford (UK), Universidad de Costa Rica (Costa Rica), Conservatorio Provincial de Música Julián Aguirre (Argentina), Tainan National University of the Arts (Taiwan), Hong Kong Baptist University (China), and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (China).  Her excellence in teaching has been recognized by a number of awards, including the “University of Illinois Teachers Ranked as Excellent.”

Dr. Lee completed her undergraduate and master's studies at McGill University in Montreal, and holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance and Literature from the University of Illinois, where she took additional doctoral work in Musicology and Library and Information Science. She also holds an Executive Certificate in Public and Nonprofit Leadership from the Harvard Kennedy School. Her performance teachers have included Charlotte Mattax, Hank Knox, Luc Beauséjour, Joyce Lindorff, Allison So, Sr. Lucile Gagné, and Kenneth Gilbert, and she has studied in masterclasses with Arthur Haas, Andrew Willis, David Breitman, and Malcolm Bilson.

Lee has taught at Illinois Wesleyan University and more recently at the Desert Baroque Workshops in California. She is past Thesis and Dissertation Reviewer of the School of Music of the University of Illinois, and has served as the Editor of the Midwestern Historical Keyboard Society Newsletter (2009–2011) and the HKSNA Newsletter (2012–present).  

Lee is Immediate Past President and a member of the Board of Directors of the Historical Keyboard Society of North America (HKSNA). She has also served as a board and advisory member of numerous regional and international arts, cultural and social-service organizations.