NOI Alumni Spotlight: Eric Lee, Washington National Opera Orchestra

For 30 years, the National Orchestral Institute + Festival has been a training ground for orchestral musicians on the precipice of their professional careers. NOI alumni occupy positions in nearly every major American orchestra as well as numerous positions in premiere service bands. Many others are teachers, college professors and arts administrators.

Eric Lee, an alumnus who is the Assistant Concertmaster at the Washington National Opera Orchestra, spoke to us about his time at NOI, some of his most memorable performances and more.

How did your experiences at NOI help prepare you for your professional career?

My years at NOI were so rich of many experiences. First, working with the high level of professional musicians and conductors that were there to teach us about everything orchestral. Playing in an orchestra, learning the audition and orchestral repertoire, how to take and audition and so forth. Second, being surrounded by incredibly talented young people and playing with them in an amazing orchestra and giving memorable concerts of the highest quality. These experiences helped me to get to where I am today. 

NOI is committed to building the "orchestra of the future." How is the Washington National Opera engaging new and future audiences, and/or reaching out to diverse groups of people?

For many years now, the Washington National Opera has had an “opera club” for young professionals to get them to engage in learning more about opera and enjoying it. I think that every classical music organization needs to reach out to younger and more diverse groups of people.

Tell us about a great experience you've had at Washington National Opera.

My most recent memory would be when we performed Wagner’s Ring Cycle during the 2015-16 season. One of the most difficult musical challenges I have ever done and I felt a great sense of accomplishment.

Why does classical music matter? 

Classical music matters because it has been around for hundreds of years. Many great composers have created amazing works of music that have been performed over a long time and must continue to be performed. In my opinion, a world without classical music would be like having a day without happiness or joy.