Classical saxophonist Wonki Lee, praised by New York Concert Review for “a knockout performance,” has distinguished himself as one of leading saxophonists of his generation. Equally at home in traditional and contemporary repertoire, Mr. Lee has won the top prize at the Vandoren Emerging Artist Competition. His musical exploration has encompassed pursuing his fascination with the history of saxophone repertoire and interpreting original works for saxophone with new insights and understanding.
Mr. Lee’s debut album, American Sonatas, was released and became available through major digital distributions in 2020. The recording focuses on original works for saxophone written by American composers. His second album, Air – Songs for the Saxophone, was released in the summer of 2021. This new album showcases the beauty and lyricism of the saxophone through well-known classical works. As a soloist, Mr. Lee has given recitals and solo performances across the globe, including recitals at La Plantation in Beijing, Seoul Arts Center in Seoul, Yamaha Osaka in Japan, and Lincoln Center in New York. In collaboration with Yamaha Japan, Mr. Lee has given recitals spotlighting Yamaha’s custom saxophones and their potential by performing significant works for the instrument exclusively on Yamaha Custom 875 EX saxophones.
Mr. Lee has been a strong advocate of contemporary music written by composers of his generation. He has premiered numerous new works ranging from solo to orchestral and contributed to the addition of three new saxophone concertos to the repertoire. He premiered a piano-redacted version of Susan Botti’s saxophone concerto Sull’ala and has had saxophone concertos written for him by Thiago Tiberio and Avner Finberg. Mr. Lee also recently premiered new saxophone solo works by Paolo Marchettini and Reiko Füting.
An avid orchestral saxophonist, Mr. Lee has collaborated with numerous conductors, including Leonard Slatkin, Robert Spano, and Philippe Entremont. He has appeared with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, Tokyo Wind Symphony Orchestra, New World Symphony Orchestra, and Bridgeport Symphony Orchestra. Currently, Mr. Lee serves as a principal saxophonist of New York Wind Orchestra.
As an educator, Mr. Lee has given master classes and lectures in China, Korea, Japan, and the U.S. His private saxophone studio has expanded internationally via online platforms, and he teaches students from Hong Kong, China, South Korea, Japan, and Canada, as well as the U.S.
Born to Korean parents living in Tokyo, Mr. Lee began to study the saxophone at age 13 and soon moved to New York City, where he received his training at Manhattan School of Music. He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Manhattan School of Music. He studied with Akemi Endo, Shiro Hatae, Nobuya Sugawa, and Dr. Paul Cohen.
Manhattan School of Music Precollege faculty since 2021.
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