When Josephine Lee began conducting Chicago Children’s Choir as a 22-year-old, she saw it as merely a temporary position.
“I thought: I’m just going to do this for the time being,” the Chicago native says. But all these years later, Lee is now president and artistic director of CCC, and the group is going as strong as ever. “I was with several alumni recently, and they were like, ‘Josephine, it’s so crazy—I never thought you’d still be here today!’ I said, ‘Me too!’”
And thank goodness for that. The enthusiastic Lee has grown CCC from a small grass-roots group to a finely tuned organization that has sung for the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela and Beyoncé, and collaborated with Kanye West, Kurt Elling and Chance the Rapper.
A Lincoln Park resident and mother of two, Lee has a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from DePaul University and a master’s in conducting from Northwestern University. She says she uses all of her training—and much more—to make sure the kids keep pushing themselves.
With methods she describes as “ruthlessly compassionate,” Lee works to ensure the kids constantly strive to be their best. “It’s demanding excellence but then saying, ‘Here’s why.’ It’s not personal. It’s about the notes,” she says.
With CCC’s annual Red Jacket Optional gala coming up, Lee is proud to help the group celebrate its 60th anniversary. “When we listen to music, we all connect on a very visceral level,” she says. “Everyone understands music because they understand rhythm and dynamics. You’re free by just simply singing together.” Oct. 21, 6:30pm, tickets $600, The Geraghty, 2520 S. Hoyne Ave., 312.849.8300
Champagne and chips, Netflix and grill, coffee, kettlebells
Shaky pitch, injustice, anything fleek