Born in Baltimore and raised in Philadelphia, Frieda Lee has lived a life dedicated to music. She graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Music Education. After taking her first teaching position at a small all-girls high school in Pennsylvania, Frieda stated, “If I can teach people to appreciate this subject, I’ll be happy to teach until I am 90 years old.”
At a very early age she was introduced to the early vocal styles of Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, Anita O’Day, and other singers of the 40’s and 50’s. She has embraced the musical legacy of main stream composers such as Gershwin, Porter, Kern, Ellington, Legrand, and more recently, Manilow. Her performance is a virtual excursion through the great American musical repertoire of adult contemporary music and mainstream jazz.
The late, legendary jazz and blues singer, Joe Williams, recognized her superior talents and booked her to substitute for him at a sold-out Chicago engagement. They regularly performed together at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., for the President’s Honor to the Arts Gala until Mr. Williams’ untimely death in March, 1999.
Frieda is the lead vocalist with the distinguished musical organization, Chicago Jazz Orchestra, formerly known as the Jazz Members Big Band; their repertoire is dedicated to promoting the musical genius of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and other legendary arrangers and composers. During the band’s annual jazz series, Ms. Lee has performed classic arrangements written for the great divas.
Ms. Lee is unique in that she has combined a life-long love of music with a dual career as a performer and educator. Her fluency in Spanish has imparted her knowledge to a broad range of students. Since her early retirement from the Chicago Public Schools, Frieda has developed and presented workshops for students and teachers throughout the Midwest.
Since her debut at the Chicago’s Fantasy Lounge two decades ago, Frieda has performed at every major showcase for jazz in Chicago’s rich and diverse musical milieu. She is currently in demand to perform with some of the top-notched ensembles such as the Marcin Januszkiewicz Trio, the Jeff Stitely Ensemble, the John Burnett Swing Orchestra and the Travis Wesley Trio of Springfield, Illinois.