long biography

photo by Rene Grosso

Considered a “new breed of instrumental specialist,” (New Music Buff) Dr. Catherine Lee offers “immaculate, masterful oboe playing” (The Double Reed) in combination with inspired and discerning musicality across an impressive range of genres and styles. A performer of oboe, English horn, and oboe d’amore, Lee shares a “deep understanding of the expressive possibilities of her instruments in both traditional and extended techniques.” (New Music Buff) “Fresh, unencumbered musical ideas” (The Double Reed) characterize her “ever-evolving, emotionally touching” (Nitestylez.de) performances. Naturally inquisitive and eager to push the boundaries of oboe technique, Lee commissions evocative new music that showcases her “ravishing, declamatory tone and absolute control over her instrument.” (Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

With a Juno Award nomination for Classical Album of the Year (solo artist), Lee’s second solo album, Remote Together (2021 – Redshift), received unanimously positive reviews from an international array of media. A musical exploration of metamorphosis, Remote Together takes the listener on a compelling, evolutionary journey, responsive to pandemic culture: “the discordance and beauty throughout are a perfect reflection of finding flickers of peace and comfort amid the nonstop madness.” (Voice of Energy) Lee’s first solo album, social sounds (2013, Teal Creek Music) featured works by Canadian composers and also received wide acclaim, being “a CD as compelling as it is eminently listenable.” (The WholeNote

Embracing “a new vision appropriate to the new century,” (New Music Buff) Lee performs as a solo, chamber, and orchestral musician in classical, contemporary, and free improvisation settings. She is a founding member of the Lee + Hannafin Duo, with percussionist Matt Hannafin, and of Re:Soundings, with Dana Reason and John C. Savage, and has performed in ensembles with noted improvisers such as Han Bennick, Vinny Golia, John Gruntfest, Gino Robair, and Tatsuya Nakatani. Her work with renowned 2020 NEA Jazz Master Roscoe Mitchell is especially noteworthy. Having performed his 1970’s work Nonaah in a more lyrical and recent arrangement with Re:Soundings Trio at the Park Avenue Armory in 2019, they also recorded the piece for Roscoe Mitchell and Ostravaska Banda: Distant Radio Transmission, an album released byWide Hive records and deemed “a new but essential contribution to our New Music Modernist canon.” (Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review) A former member of Orchestre Symphonique de Longueuil, Catherine has also appeared with the Oregon Symphony, Oregon Ballet Theatre Orchestra, Portland Opera Orchestra, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, and the Montreal Chamber Orchestra among others. Lee’s interdisciplinary collaborations include the creation of reeds, a site-specific work composed by Emily Doolittle (Sound Symposium, 2010); work with POV dance (Ten Tiny Dances, 2008); and with Tracy Broyles (Risk/Reward Festival, 2012). In 2015, the Lee + Hannafin Duo released their debut album Five Shapes: Improvisations for Oboe d’amore and Percussion, showcasing their inventive musical imagination, and… deliver[ing] a surprisingly multifarious experience.” (Oregon ArtsWatch

Lee’s doctoral research on how virtuoso performers in the late eighteenth century used solo concerti to demonstrate skill and build resonance with audiences, has led to a curiosity with regard to the role of improvisation in both the development of creativity and voice of a performer and in the relationship between performers, audience and space. She has presented her research at the International Alliance for Women in Music (2022), the University of Edinburgh (2022), ISSTA: Sonic Practice Now (2020), Agile Futures: Approaching Improvisation (Vancouver, BC, 2019), Ecomusics & Ecomusicologies 2014: Dialogues (Asheville, NC, 2014), The Embodiment of Authority – Perspectives on Performances (Helsinki, Finland, 2010), The Performer’s Voice (Singapore, 2009), Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium (Guelph, 2010, 2012), Performance in the Studio (2013) and College Music Society (Seattle, WA, 2010, 2013). Yale University Press, Peter Lang, Music Educators Journal, the IAWM Journal, the IDRS Journal Double Reed, and the ADRS Journal Reeding Matter have all published her research. 

A dedicated teacher and mentor, Lee is on faculty at Willamette University, Western Oregon University, and George Fox University. A trained Andover Educator, Lee is licensed to teach “What Every Musician needs to know about the Body” and leads a course in Coordinate Movement at Willamette University (Salem, OR). She has offered presentations on Body Mapping at Washington State University (Pullman, WA), Portland State University, and at the International Conference of the Andover Educators.

Lee holds a Doctor of Music in Oboe Performance and a Bachelor of Music from McGill University (Montreal, Quebec), a Master of Music and a Performer Diploma from Indiana University (Bloomington, Indiana), and certification from the Deep Listening Institute (New York). Her principal influences include Theodore Baskin, Normand Forget, Bruce Haynes, and Eleanor V. Stubley.