Meet Stephen Lee

Founder and Artistic Director

The Man Behind the Mission …

Jazz is Stephen Lee’s calling whether he’s playing it or teaching theory and performance to his students. He can attest to the transformative power of music; the arts were his siren song and the guiding light by which he moved through his own education process.

Stephen has been sharing his gift with students for the past 10 years as a long-time instructor at Stax Academy, Shelby County Schools (Overton and Booker T. Washington) and Visible Music College. Currently, he is a fellow and piano instructor at Memphis Music Initiative as well as at Crosstown High School. With each class and in each school, he strives to raise the quality of teaching (jazz, music) while continuing to develop a culture of learning and pushing his students to reach higher. It is his mission to instill the love of jazz in future generations, preparing them to lead the charge and keep the art alive and well.

… and the Keyboard

A Memphis native, Lee studied with legendary Jazz pianist Donald Brown at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville before heading to New York City to finish his studies and further hone his skills in some of the most well-known jazz venues in the world. He rounded out his studies with a Bachelor’s degree in Jazz Performance from City College in New York City and a Master’s degree in Education from Freed Hardeman University. While living in New York, Stephen has shared the stage with some of Jazz music’s best and brightest including Gregory Porter, Esperanza Spaulding, Billy Kaye and Saul Rubin. In 2012, he released his first album, “Songs in the Key of My Life” for which he won the Rhythm of Gospel Award and was nominated in the first round of the Stellar Awards. In 2018 Stephen was voted Steinway and Sons 2018 Top Music Teacher of the Year by Amro Music Store. And In 2019, he was nominated as a Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow.

Even with his professional accomplishments and performance schedule, Stephen continues to keep students at the forefront. He says, “The students are my priority. I keep them in mind no matter what I’m doing.”