James Lee was born in the San Francisco bay area, where he made his debut with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra at the age of 15. He received his bachelor's degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and his master's degree from The Juilliard School. That same year, he became a member of the National Symphony Orchestra. At Juilliard, Mr. Lee served as principal of both the Juilliard Orchestra and the Juilliard Chamber Orchestra. As winner of the prestigious Juilliard Cello Competition, he was a featured soloist at Alice Tully Hall. Mr. Lee's teachers have included Margaret Rowell, Bonnie Hampton, Leonard Rose, and Joel Krosnick.
Mr. Lee appeared as soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra in the 1988 world premiere of Andreas Makris' Concertante under the baton of Mstislav Rostropovich. In 2011, Mr. Lee performed the Crouching Tiger Concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap with composer Tan Dun. He will also be featured with two other colleagues from the cello section in Penderecki's Concerto Grosso for Three Cellos and Orchestra in April 2015 with Christoph Eschenbach conducting.
A devoted chamber musician, Mr. Lee is the artistic director and founder of the National Chamber Players at Episcopal. Mr. Lee is also a member of the cello quartet "4inCorrespondence".
Mr. Lee's cello is made by Claude Guillot, Bordeaux, 1842.