Dae Lee, Big Band Director

Dae Lee is a drummer, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and educator. He has worked with entertainers and organisations such as George Fenton, Craig Revel Horwood, The David Attenborough Group, Melody Thornton (Pussycat Dolls), Bob Chilcott, Brian Blessed, The BBC, Netflix, Shane Ritchie, Leslie Garrett, the London Swing Orchestra, National Youth Jazz Orchestra (ambassador), Thomas Adès, Don Broco, Nico Muhly, Pete Firman, Ian Talbot OBE, Malory Torr, Byron Wallen, Thierry Pécou, and has also performed for Queen Elizabeth II. His contributions to various albums has seen individual tracks rank no. 1 on the UK Jazz charts on numerous occasions.

Venues and studio work include Abbey Road Studios, Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club, Royal Albert Hall, Wimbledon Pantomime (drums and perc), Cadogan Hall, Love Supreme Jazz Festival (Yamaha Tent), Royal Festival Hall, Barbican, O2 Indigo, Pizza Express Jazz Club (Dean Street, Pheasantry, Birmingham, Maidenhead), Beijing Concert Hall, Budapest Jazz Club, BBC Hyde Park Festival, Livingston Studios, and Metropolis Studios. Dae has also worked for labels such as Universal Music Group (Earth Orchestra) and Decca Records (The Boy Downstairs: Netflix). Alongside his UK touring experience, Dae has had opportunities performing in South America, Europe, North Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

Dae’s dedication to education in the arts has led him to engage with numerous organisations and charitable initiatives, such as The Thames Youth Orchestra, Bristol Hornstars, and the Reading University Big Band. Additionally, he provides private drum tuition at Wellington College and Epsom College, whilst also leading rhythm workshops at the Royal Ballet School.


What has been the worst or most memorable thing that has happened during one of your performances – as a performer/director/accompanist etc?

As a performer, I once forgot to pack my bass drum pedal. We ended up Macgyver’ing one with the plate of a guitar pedal and some springs we found at the theatre bar – it did not work.

Who is your musical inspiration?

I deeply admire Leonard Bernstein, who I believe to be one of the most versatile musicians of all time. He conducted, composed, arranged, performed and educated to the highest degree.

What inspires you to perform and teach?

My previous teachers, I guess. There can be a sense of snobbery amongst a number of musicians towards those who teach. Yet they forget that they themselves were taught by cats at the top.

Using a relatable example, if we look back to September, Big Band would not be creating the sound and feel they do now. It is extremely rewarding to see students and ensembles progress. It’s infectious!

Which instrument do you wish you had learned?

Although I learnt it briefly, I wish I had taken my piano playing more seriously, especially in terms of sight reading ‘on the fly’. It is my kryptonite.

What musical advice would you give to your younger self?

Stop comparing yourselves to others (musically) – the ones at the top are because they sound like themselves. Still working on this one….

What musical moment are you most proud of?

My first performance at the Royal Albert Hall. I frequent the BBC Proms every year and always wanted to perform at this venue. It was a very special feeling to be on that stage.

Which three words describe you as a musician?

Aware, decisive, neurotic!

What is your favourite memory of working with University of Reading Music?

Probably our first gig at Mojo’s. The band really pulled it out of the bag and it was great to hear what we had achieved in a term’s worth of rehearsals.

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