Mission: To Seek and Share Inspiration

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Spotlight on Tim Lees


For this Spotlight we feature CSO Concertmaster (Anna Sinton Taft Chair) Timothy Lees. In coming months we’ll continue to spotlight other musicians, patrons or leaders within the CSO and Pops community.



When did you join the CSO as concertmaster? Tell us briefly about your musical background prior to the CSO?

I began as Concertmaster of the CSO in June of 1998 when I was 28 years old. I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and began studying the violin when I was 7 years old. I obtained my B.M. in Violin Performance from the Eastman School of Music in May of 1992. My first job in 1992 was in Philadelphia with a small chamber orchestra called the Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia (now known as the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia). After one year there I won the position of Associate Concertmaster with the Charleston (SC) Symphony Orchestra and two years later won the audition for Concertmaster of the same orchestra. From 1994-1997 I was actively auditioning for titled positions in major orchestras and in October of 1997 auditioned for and was offered the position of Concertmaster with the New Jersey Symphony but turned it down after I won the position of Concertmaster with the CSO.

What other musical activities are you involved with (other ensembles, chamber music, solo gigs, etc)?

Since 1998 I have been a regular performer with the Linton Music Chamber Series in Cincinnati (1-2 concerts per season) as well as the CCM Faculty/Guest Artist Series. From 2003-2006 I was a Faculty Artist at the Aspen Music Festival and School where I performed as Concertmaster of the Aspen Festival Orchestra and Aspen Chamber Symphony in addition to appearing on the Aspen Faculty Artist Chamber Series. Since 2004 I have been on the faculty of the Sarasota Music Festival where I perform as Concertmaster, collaborate in faculty chamber music concerts and serve as a chamber music coach for student ensembles. In 2011 I was appointed to the faculty of CCM and in 2014 was promoted to the rank of Adjunct Full Professor of Violin. At CCM I divide my time between my private violin studio, private orchestral excerpt coaching and working directly with both student orchestras. In past years I have also served as artist/faculty for the Indiana University Summer Music Festival, the Sebago Long Lake Chamber Series in Maine, the Fine Arts String Academy in Nashville, TN and the Cincinnati Young Artists Chamber Music Workshop. I have presented masterclasses in solo and orchestral excerpts at CCM, Carnegie Mellon University, the College of Charleston, University of Kentucky, Ohio University, Indiana University, Aspen Music Festival and the Sarasota Music Festival among others. As a soloist I have appeared over a dozen times with the CSO performing works ranging from Bach to Bartók. In addition I have been the featured soloist with orchestras throughout the United States.

What about non-musical hobbies or interests?

I absolutely love doing DIY projects around the house with my wife, spending time with my three children and more recently delving into the world of fine wines.

What’s the best part about being the concertmaster of the CSO & Pops?

It is a true honor and privilege to collaborate with the exceptional musicians and conductors of the CSO and Pops on a weekly basis! I never take for granted the position I have with the CSO and I count it among my greatest challenges and responsibilities to uphold and maintain the highest standards of musical integrity that is a hallmark of our great Orchestra. 

Do you have any favorite memories or performances that stand out?

My first concerts ever with the CSO included two performances and two recording sessions of Mahler's Third Symphony. To this day it is my favorite Mahler Symphony, and it was an exceptionally gratifying musical experience with this great Orchestra. Second to this would be my first tour with the CSO to Carnegie Hall where we performed Strauss' Ein Heldenleben to critical acclaim in 1999. 

What is your favorite part about living in Cincinnati?

We enjoy the view of Cincinnati from Northern Kentucky where we live!

Do you have any favorite local haunts?

Any one of the numerous great steakhouses in town!

What are some personal or professional highlights coming up in the next few months?

Teaching my oldest son to drive is a highlight but also a daunting task.... Not to mention trying to decide with my wife when we should allow him to drive the BMW!

On a musical note I look forward to performing chamber music works by Dvořák and Schumann at the Sarasota Music Festival in June as well as my first performance of the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante with my wife in Tucson, AZ in November!

Where do you seek and find inspiration?

As I have recently expanded my teaching role privately and at CCM, I have found a great deal of inspiration from my students! I have found that each student has a different learning style which presents unique challenges in my approach. I find that exploring and expanding upon this component of my musical and mental capacity results in enhancing my own playing and ultimately enabling me to continue to become a better musician.