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Andrew McKenna Lee

Brooklyn, NY      

Described as “an astoundingly virtuosic guitar player… and far more importantly… a thoughtful and original composer,” (Jayson Greene, eMusic) Andrew McKenna Lee’s music has been commissioned and programmed by some of the world’s leading ensembles and organizations, including the Brentano String Quartet, eighth blackbird, Kroumata, Concert Artists Guild, the American Composers Orchestra, the New Jersey Symphony, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. As a performer, Mr. Lee has given solo concerts featuring his original compositions for guitar in some of the country’s most esteemed venues, including New York’s Symphony Space, Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), the Annenberg Center for the Arts in Philadelphia, and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

 An artist who is both adept and comfortable in blending seemingly disparate styles, Lee has also performed with rock legends Billy Idol and former Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones in his own large ensemble arrangements of songs by David Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. This stylistic fluency has found its way into several of his own works, including Sunrise from the Bottom of the Sea (an homage to Jimi Hendrix) and his Scordatura Suite, which prompted one music writer to comment, “I’m not sure if he was going for the rock/classical synthesis, but if he was, it’s the best effort of its kind I have yet heard.” (Soundboard).

To date, Lee has released two commercial recordings. His debut release on New Amsterdam Records, Gravity and Air, was named one of the year’s “Top Ten Best Classical Albums” of 2009 in Time Out Chicago. Released the same year, Solar/Electric also met with critical praise, most notably from composer Steve Reich, who declared Lee’s realization of his work Electric Counterpoint, “a magnificent performance beautifully recorded.” His most recent project is The Knells, a “post-progressive, neo-psychedelic art rock ensemble” that combines Renaissance-inspired vocal polyphony with influences from psychedelic, classic, and progressive rock. Their debut album, described as a collection of songs that “sweep ahead, through passages of tolling solo electric guitar, of elegiac vocal melodies and harmonies, of note-bending quasi-Indian strings and guitar, of progressive-rock processionals” (New York Times), was released on New Amsterdam Records in November 2013, and was cited as one of the year’s most notable releases in The New Republic, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Textura, and several others.

Other recent works include Curio (2011), commissioned by the Italian guitarist Sergio Sorrentino for the 20th International Guitar Festival of Lagonegro, Italy; Harlan Variations (2014) commissioned for the Charleston Symphony Orchestra’s Magnetic South concert series in Charleston, SC.; and Clear Image, a collaborative orchestral work by electronic musician and Battles guitarist Ian Williams which was orchestrated and realized by Mr. Lee. Commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra, Clear Image receives its world premiere in November 2014 at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Mr. Lee holds degrees in composition from Carnegie Mellon University (BFA, 1997), the Manhattan School of Music (MM 2000), and Princeton University (Ph.D., 2013), where his primary teachers were Leonardo Balada, Richard Danielpour, and Steven Mackey. Additionally, he has studied guitar with James Ferla, David Leisner, and Laura Oltman, and in masterclasses with Manuel Barrueco, Carlos Barbosa-Lima, and Alvaro Pierri. He has received awards and fellowships from ASCAP, the New York Youth Symphony, Princeton University (2003-2008), the South Carolina Arts Council, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Hermitage Artist Retreat, the American Music Center, Meet the Composer, and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music. He currently serves on faculty at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.


Live performance of Arabescata (for solo classical guitar) at Princeton University.

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Dying In Waves

Live “studio” performance of Dying In Waves (for solo electric guitar). The audio portion of this recording will be released on The Knells’ eponymous debut album on New Amsterdam Records in November, 2013.

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Steve Reich: Electric Counterpoint, III. Fast

Live performance of the third movement of Steve Reich’s seminal guitar work, Electric Counterpoint. Recorded at New Music New College, September, 2010.

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