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Who Is Cynthia Cozette Lee?

International Composer/Librettist/Arranger/Performer and Author

DR. CYNTHIA COZETTE LEE is a highly talented international award winning Black American contemporary composer, librettist, flautist, pianist, producer, poet and author. She has written for opera, orchestra, solo voice, instruments, choral and chamber ensembles. Her music has been performed in Europe, the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico at events with such distinguished organizations as the Orchestre Symphonique du Loiret, OperaCréole, Crescendo Detroit, New York City Marshall Opera, College Music Society, Flute Society of Greater Philadelphia, National Association of Negro Musicians, Women of Color Festival and the Mu Phi Epsilon International Conventions. Her talents as an arranger include arranging and transcribing piano music by Mozart and J.S. Bach for flute trio and flute quartet.

She is one of the first Black Americans and one of the first women to graduate from the distinguished, Ivy League University of Pennsylvania with a Masters of Arts Degree in Music Composition. She was also one of the first for almost 3 years to produce and host a Black American classical musician interview radio program in Philadelphia, featuring interviews with such renowned Black American classical musicians as Blanche Burton-Lyles and Sylvia Olden Lee.


Her award-winning compositions “Colors for Women’s Voices and Percussion Ensemble” and “The Martyr for Baritone and Orchestra” have received awards in the Mu Phi Epsilon National Composition Contests. (George Walker was the judge who chose “The Martyr” to win a Mu Phi composition prize. The judging was done anonymously and the judge could not see the name of the composer). Her composition “Nigerian Treasures in 3 Movements” for solo unaccompanied flute received an award and first public international performance from the College Music Society in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dr. Lee’s orchestral compositions are “Ebony Reflections for Chamber Orchestra”, “Nepenthe Concerto for Piano and Orchestra” and “A.M.E.R.I.C.A.”


A champion of a “tonal” music style that she enlarged upon learning about the art of music composition from her avant-garde composition professor, George Rochberg.  Her tonal-style of music has stood the test of time. Both her operatic works, vocal works and award-winning instrumental chamber music works are performed today by musicians internationally.


Cynthia Cozette Lee studied composition with other highly eminent composers including George Rochberg. She studied composition with George Crumb, Roland Leich, Leonardo Balada, William Hoskins and Joseph Wilcox Jenkins. She treasures the time she studied The Art of Music Copying at the Juilliard School of Music with Arnold Arnstein, the personal copyist to Samuel Barber, Gian Carlo Menotti and many other distinguished American composers.

Dreams of studying abroad in France at the Sorbonne like her college peers were able to do or to study at the Royal College in England after she was accepted were thwarted due to economics. Reality set in and although Cozette continued to compose over 150 works, she became a public school music educator and administrative consultant in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico. Cozette’s music was performed by such notable music groups as the South Florida Chamber Ensemble, Flute Society of Philadelphia, National Association of Negro Musicians, Women of Color Festival and the Mu Phi Epsilon International Conventions.


Cynthia Cozette Lee is formally trained as a classical music composer. She values her higher education experience being the first African American and woman to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania with a Master of Arts degree in Music Composition. Her Doctorate degree is in Educational Leadership from Rowan University and her other Master’s is in Public Administration from Rutgers University. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Music Composition from Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Lee’s junior high school music teacher and orchestra director was Lawrence Peeler, Sr., who was one of the first Black Americans to graduate from Carnegie Mellon University with a music degree and also the first Black hired as a full-time music teacher in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Dr. Lee for over 25 years has also been an educator and educational leader. As an educator, teacher & administrator consultant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Camden City, New Jersey and San Juan, Puerto Rico she has assisted with implementing differentiated instruction training for educators. She has also volunteered as a church choir director in Philadelphia and San Juan, Puerto Rico and likes using music to enhance community unity. 


Cozette’s music is currently in high demand. Her music soon will be published. Two upcoming recordings of her original voice and piano works and award-winning flute works are due to be released in 2024.


When asked by musicologist, Missy Curl in an interview “5 Questions with a Musician”, “What influenced your style of writing music?” Cynthia Cozette Lee responded, “Twentieth century composers who influenced my style are the Black Nationalist composers like R. Nathaniel Dett, Harlem Renaissance composer, William Grant Still, and contemporary composers, Gian Carlo Menotti and Samuel Barber. My music composition professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Roland Leich, attended Curtis Institute of Music as a composition student and classmate with Gian Carlo Menotti and Samuel Barber. My music writing style is tonal using melodies and harmonies. At the same time I try to incorporate Black historical themes in my style of writing because these themes deal with American human stories.”

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