At a hospital close to his dwelling in Malmo, Sweden, Everett Lee died on January 12. He was a conductor who broke down obstacles of race, however then fled the unfairness that black classical musicians in the US confronted to make a giant title for himself in Europe and change into well-known all through the world. He was about 105.

Eve, the daughter of Everett Lee, mentioned that he had died.

Everett Lee was already a concertmaster for white theater orchestras in 1943. In September 1945, he grew to become the music director of Leonard Bernstein’s “On the City.” This was a giant break for him on Broadway. As a black conductor on Broadway, he was the primary one to “wave the baton over a white orchestra.”

In 1953, Mr. Lee led the Louisville Orchestra in Kentucky. It was a nerve-wracking day for him as a result of he did not have numerous time to observe and due to the historical past of the orchestra. Mr. Lee led a white orchestra for one of many first occasions within the South {that a} black man led a white orchestra. Different shops mentioned it was the primary time. It was mentioned that he “made an excellent first impression.”

In 1955, quickly after Marian Anderson made her debut on the Metropolitan Opera, Everett Lee took cost of the New York Metropolis Opera, which was additionally a brand new factor for him on the time. His spouse, Sylvia Olden Lee, a vocal coach, was the primary black musician on the Met’s workers on the time. She was additionally his spouse.

Not solely did his “La Traviata” have numerous technical talent, however it additionally had numerous musicianship and an “extraordinary sense of the opera’s character.”

Racism stored Everett Lee from having a profitable U.S. profession, even tho he did not let it have an effect on his work. Within the late Nineteen Forties, Arthur Judson, the supervisor of the artists, requested: “An African-American in entrance of a white symphony group? I do not wish to signal him up. ” “No. I’m sorry.

Judson mentioned that Everett Lee ought to go into exile like different black musicians and go to a different nation. At first, Everett Lee did not go away, however in 1957, he did. He went to Germany, Colombia, and Sweden, the place he grew to become the music director of the Norrkoping Symphony Orchestra from 1962 to 1972.

From time to time, Mr. Lee instructed people who he would solely return to the US to change into the music director of a giant orchestra. He mentioned that usually.

Requested in 1970, “I did not have a lot hope at dwelling, even tho I had some success.” He mentioned that racism was much less of an issue for him in Europe. Having a job at dwelling can be nice! American: “Why not? I am an American. ” “I believe I ought to be capable to make it right here,” he mentioned.

An African American conductor has solely been chosen for this job as soon as earlier than: James DePreist.

Even tho he was born on August 31, 1916, he was the primary baby of Everett Denver Lee and Mamie Amanda (Blue) Lee. He was born in Wheeling, WVa. Due to his good expertise, his household moved to Cleveland in 1927. He started taking part in the violin when he was 8.

Earlier than Jesse Owens grew to become an Olympic gold medalist, Mr. Lee ran monitor in junior excessive. He was the concertmaster of a highschool band at Glenville Excessive Faculty and led it effectively. He was taught by the conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, Artur Rodzinski, after an opportunity assembly on the resort the place Everett Lee labored as an elevator operator, the place he met Mr. Rodzinski, too. The Cleveland Orchestra’s concertmaster, Joseph Fuchs, was his trainer on the Cleveland Institute of Music, the place he realized to play the piano.

Graduating in 1941, Everett Lee joined the Military and realized methods to be a Tuskegee airman in Alabama, however he damage himself and needed to be let go.

“Carmen Jones” was a rewrite of “Carmen” by Oscar Hammerstein II that had an all-black forged however a principally white orchestra. In 1943, Mr. Lee moved to New York to play within the orchestra for “Carmen Jones.” When the conductor was caught within the snow in early 1944, Mr. Lee took over because the concertmaster and led Bizet’s music as an alternative. It was after that that Bernstein employed him to be concertmaster and later music director of “On the City.” He had a couple of stints as conductor of “Porgy and Bess” earlier than that.

Carol J. Oja, a musicologist, says that “Lee’s appointment was out of this world.” She says this as a result of there was Jim Crow segregation in efficiency on the time.

Mr. Lee then performed violin within the violin part of the New York Metropolis Symphony for Bernstein. Bernstein arrange a scholarship for Mr. Lee to go to Tanglewood in 1946, the place he realized to conduct from Serge Koussevitzky of the Boston Symphony. In 1949, he led the Boston Pops.

“Like most younger individuals, I assumed I might exit and conquer the world,” Mr. Lee mentioned in 1977.

That is true, however Mr. Lee could not recover from a sure colour. Rodzinski, who’s now the conductor of the New York Philharmonic, refused to let him audition for the violin part as a result of he knew what would occur. Hammerstein mentioned, “If a coloured boy is the conductor and we go into the South,” that might make individuals indignant, so he did not need him to be in a touring present.

In 1947, Mr. Lee responded by forming the Cosmopolitan Little Symphony, an all-black group that practiced at Grace Congregational Church in Harlem. That occurred in Might 1948, when he was on the rostrum at City Corridor, the place he performed “Temporary Elegy,” a bit by Ulysses Kay, who was one in every of many black composers Mr. Lee performed throughout his life.

By 1952, the Cosmopolitan was performing Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino” in entrance of two,100 individuals at Metropolis School. The Met’s Regina Resnik performed Leonora.

“My very own group goes fairly effectively,” Mr. Lee wrote to Bernstein. “It might be step one in breaking down numerous foolish partitions.” Nevertheless it was exhausting to begin any group again then, not to mention one which was built-in. As a result of black musicians who had been educated thought there was “no future” in getting good at music, it was exhausting to get individuals to enroll.

In 1955, Mr. Lee joined the workers of the New York Metropolis Opera. He left for Europe. Transferring to Munich in 1957, he began an orchestra on the American Home and led an opera firm that went on tour. He led the Berlin Philharmonic in June 1960, one in every of many European dates.

A black conductor who led the Gothenburg Symphony from 1953 to 1960, Dean Dixon, discovered a secure haven in Sweden, the place Mr. Lee additionally discovered refuge. He performed a variety of music in Norrkoping, from operas like “Aida” and “Porgy” to numerous Swedish music, together with Hans Eklund’s “Music for Orchestra.” He additionally labored with jazz musicians like saxophonist Arne Domnerus. From 1985 to 1987, Lee was the chief conductor of the Bogotá Philharmonic. This was a mixture of new and previous, each from the world and from different locations.

However, even so, Mr. Lee did not quit on the orchestras in the US simply but. He began to look at occasions once more. A Occasions critic wrote in 1966, “There isn’t any doubt that he must be round extra typically.” His now-defunct orchestra, Cosmopolitan, was began in 1965 as an all-black orchestra, identical to the Symphony of the New World. In 1973, he took over the orchestra. Afterward, he performed with Opera Ebony in Philadelphia. In 2005, he took his final bow with the Louisville Orchestra.

In 1972, he instructed The Afro-American Newspaper, “My discipline hasn’t modified a lot.” “Orchestra corporations suppose that if they’d a black orchestra chief final 12 months, they do not want one this 12 months,” says the writer.

Mr. Lee led the New York Philharmonic on the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1976. He led Sergei Rachmaninoff, Jean Sibelius, and David Baker’s “Kosbro,” which is brief for “Carry on Steppin’ Brothers,” on the identical time.

Mr. Lee and Ms. Lee broke up after they married. She was born in 1979, and he married her in 1979. It is not simply her that he leaves behind. Eve Lee from his first marriage continues to be alive, as is Erik Lee from his second. He additionally has two granddaughters and a great-granddaughter.

In 1997, Mr. Lee mentioned in an interview that he wasn’t “bitter,” even tho he needed to cope with numerous issues.

At two main U.S. orchestras, they did not need him to play the violin.

“I then determined that if I can not be part of you, then I’ll lead you as an alternative.” I stored my promise to myself. These two orchestras that did not let him even audition would have employed me as a conductor, he mentioned. “I needed to. I could not not. ” My job was simply to point out them that I used to be there.


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