Eleanor Lee


Hometown: Washington, PA
Alma maters: Eastman School of Music, Trinity High School
Awards/competitions: Howard Hanson and Edna McLaughlin Merit Scholarships, Eastman School of Music; master class performances for distinguished artists, including the Dover and Pacifica Quartets, Joseph Silverstein, and Amir Eldan
Appearances: Meadowmount School of Music; National Orchestral Institute; Credo Chamber Music Program; Castleman Quartet Program; Brevard Summer Music Festival; solo appearances with the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony, Pittsburgh Civic, and Washington Symphony Orchestras
Instagram: @cellonor
Musical origins: I began playing cello at age 7.  I had started on piano when I was 5, but deep down, I really wanted to play the harp.  However, my parents, dreading the idea of renting a harp and the subsequent pain of toting the instrument around, convinced me to try out a different string instrument to see if I would even like them.  I couldn’t play the violin because my older brother had already been playing the violin for a few years at that point, and I didn’t want to do what he was doing.  So, I chose the cello and have been very happy with my choice.
Favorite thing about TŌN: What excites me about TŌN is that it is brand new.  As the inaugural class, we are a part of the genesis of a program that is unlike any other program out there.  A lot of times we are compared to the New World Symphony, a training orchestra based in Miami Beach and lead by Michael Tilson Thomas.  However, given our proximity to New York City (and other cities, like Boston) and given that we are a Master’s degree program at Bard College, TŌN is in a prime position to innovate graduate-level career preparation, networking, and advancement in the ever-competitive field of classical music.
Favorite piece to play: Rachmaninov’s Cello Sonata
Favorite composer fact: In addition to being a composer (and a self-taught cellist), Alexander Borodin was also a chemist and is credited for being a significant source of encouragement to his friend, Dmitri Mendeleyev, in his efforts to create the Periodic Table of Elements.
Which composer would have had the best social media: J.S. Bach – but only because he’d be calling people “nanny-goat bassoonists,” left and right.
Favorite fact about your instrument: No other acoustic instrument more closely imitates the sound of the human voice. I think this is why everybody loves the cello so much.
Favorite non-classical musician: Ella Fitzgerald
Musical guilty pleasure: I secretly love to listen to what I call “angry music”, which basically anything that is loud and fast and intense. I love classical music, but sometimes after a long day of rehearsals and practicing, I have to detox with music that isn’t quite so careful; something that gets the blood pumping in a more primitive way.
Best music to have on repeat: Chopin’s Complete Piano Works
What recording would you take to a deserted island: Janos Starker’s recording of the Kodály Sonata for Solo Cello—it’s INCREDIBLE.
Proudest accomplishment: Well… I’m still alive, aren’t I?
Favorite non-musical activity: Food
Last book read: Far From the Maddening Crowd by Tom Hardy.  I’m currently working on a non-fiction book by Harriet A. Washington called Medical Apartheid:  The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present.  It’s pretty out of my normal reading comfort zone of primarily fiction, but I’m enjoying having my mind blown.
Favorite painting: I’m pretty ignorant in the visual arts field, but I like both Salvador Dali’s Swans Reflecting Elephants and, most recently, Vassily Kandinsky’s Composition VII.
Piece of advice for a young classical musician: You are your own best teacher.
Time travel destination: Easy. I’d want to see some dinosaurs!