Conservatory Spotlight: Emma Lee

Emma Lee is a sophomore in the Bachelor of Music program studying with Clive Greensmith. She is from Tustin, CA.

This interview has been lightly edited for style, content, and clarity.

Why did you decide to study at Colburn?
It’s a combination of things, really. I was in the Community School before I came here, so I really loved the environment and wanted to study with the teachers here. I went to some of the Colburn Chamber Music Society (CCMS) concerts before, and that was really inspiring, like I really want to go here. The overall environment with all the students just seemed like the place to be. Besides music, I really like LA life and the food here is great. Plus, it’s close by home.

How has your Colburn experience been?
It’s amazing. It’s a lot of work. I was originally in Mr. Leonard’s studio and he retired. I got to work with Hans Jensen, who came in from Northwestern University, and working with him was just such a blast. And starting to work with Mr. Greensmith this year has been amazing. He’s just really passionate about what he does and always cares about putting the music first.

What has your most memorable experience here been so far?
There have been a lot this year, especially. I had my first CCMS concert. That was just so surreal to be experiencing that when I was dreaming about playing in a CCMS concert like, a year ago. It was weird kind of, living the dream.

This concert on Friday is definitely going to be memorable. All the Bach suites are just so dear to my heart, and dear to a lot of cellists’ hearts. Playing it with a dancer is something that I haven’t done before. Even today during the run-through, it was like, whoa, this is new territory.

And then, the tour was probably the most memorable. That was just a lot of fun. I’ve never been to Europe before, so it was definitely a different experience. I’ve gotten to know not only the people in my section, but the alumni that got called back, and all the old students that were returning, and all the new students too. It was really good.

How was the rehearsal process for See the Music, Hear the Dance?
It was definitely different, something I wasn’t used to. It was really awesome to see the music being represented in another form of art. It was kind of an out-of-body experience, too. It was weird, but weird in a good way. I just really loved it, and being able to collaborate with such a talented artist himself, Daniel. It’s a blessing.

Have you ever collaborated with a dancer before?
Never. I’ve always admired dancing from a distance, but I’ve never gotten to actually collaborate with dancers.

What makes it different from playing by yourself or with other musicians?
Dancing is just something that’s so very rhythmic, so you gotta keep the pulse going so you can stay in time. It’s much different than playing with another musician, because they’re just two completely different art forms that are coming together. I have to watch for [Daniel’s] movements, and he cues too, so it’s much different from chamber playing.

What will you be able to learn from this and bring back to your regular playing?
Bach suites are basically a staple for cellists and other musicians as well, something we all hold dear to our hearts. Being able to perform this with a dancer will open a lot of new perspectives for me. I felt that a lot this morning, with it being represented a different way. Now I guess the more I play my day-to-day repertoire, the more eye-opening it will be for me. It’ll open a lot more avenues to expressing myself in my music. This morning just really ignited my passion again, like this is why I’m doing this. It’s amazing, it’s really cool.

Where do you see your career headed in the future?
I love orchestra, and I’ve always loved playing in orchestra, even youth orchestras and stuff. The whole full orchestra repertoire is amazing, and the vibe is amazing when you get to work with people you really love working with. Conductors are amazing. They’re artists themselves, and they just pour themselves into the group. Orchestra’s definitely something I want to do in the future. Maybe soloing, but I don’t know, because it’s hard to get chances to solo.

Chamber groups too, I want to find a nice chamber family to meld with. And teaching, I’d love to give back and teach all the things I’ve gotten to learn from so many teachers. I also want to do studio work, like doing music for movies. That’s always just so cool, being able to sit in a movie theater, and say, hey, there’s the orchestra. That’s it so far.

What are your interests outside music?
Well, one of the reasons why I came to Colburn was the food. I’m a major foodie, Korean food being my staple. I must have it. That was one of the criteria for choosing schools, strangely enough. I love writing a lot, it just helps to put my thoughts down on paper. Art is another thing. That’s always been in my life. I’ve taken art classes and stuff, and I painted my case over the summer. It’s not really outside of music per se but I’m passionate about k-pop. Just the whole business of it all, like the visuals and the groups, and the music videos blow my mind.

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