Chang Woo Lee

Acting Principal Cello

When I was a child growing up in South Korea there was no music in my family — and certainly no Western classical music. But my oldest brother worked in a violin shop, and he got the idea that I should play the cello. I did well and enjoyed the attention I received. So I kept at it, and the doors kept on opening before me.

When I was in high school I won Korea’s most prestigious music competition. Soon after, I played for Janos Starker, who was in Seoul on a concert tour. He offered me a full scholarship to Indiana University, where I found myself for the first time surrounded by young cellists who played much better than I did. So I started practicing five or more hours a day. Once I had to go the doctor because my thumb was infected and bleeding from too much playing!

After 37 years in the BSO, music making for me has come to be all about beauty and love. I learned from conductors who would not be satisfied with a technically correct reading of the music…they demanded artistry. There were soloists who brought me to tears.

And I was always surrounded by my colleagues who gave their best — night after night.

The music touched my heart, and that is what I want to share with others.

I’m told I have an eye for beauty. In another life, if I weren’t a musician, perhaps I would be an interior designer.

But I live in the house of music, and that is my home.

Professional bio