November 11, 2019

CIM’s First Mary Hamlin Presidential Scholar Says the Award Means Much More to Her Than Just Paying Tuition and Rent

Shannon Lee
Photo by Justin Aranha

Many musicians develop their gift for playing music way before college. Maybe it starts with a piano lesson in first grade, an infatuation with the violin at 9, or playing a melody on a toy flute at 3.

For violinist Shannon Lee, inaugural recipient of the Mary Hamlin Memorial Presidential Scholarship at CIM, it came down to not just looking for ways to support herself as she pursues a career in classical music, but mostly to a dedication and love for the art that pushed her to continue her education at the age of 26.

Being CIM’s first-ever Hamlin Presidential Scholar made the path that much easier for her. The scholarship provides full tuition plus room, board, fees and a stipend for an exceptional student, making it a virtually worry-free experience for students during their time at the Conservatory. Already highly accomplished, Lee fit the bill perfectly – and because the scholarship funding has allowed her to compete and travel, she’s firmly establishing herself as one of today’s most exciting and gifted young concert soloists.

Since the fall of 2018, Lee has won or earned top prizes in the Sendai International Competition in Japan, the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium, the Naumberg Competition in New York City and the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, where she also was recognized for Best Performance of an Ysaÿe Sonata. She’ll soon be performing as a soloist with orchestras like the Tokyo Symphony in Japan and the New York String Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.

Besides her obvious talent, these successes were made possible because Lee received support and guidance through many layers of the CIM community – allowing her to maximize her practice and prep time to compete internationally at the highest level.    

Since Lee will graduate with her master’s degree next May, the Hamlin Scholarship will be available to another deserving CIM student. All students who apply to CIM for fall 2020 will be considered. Currently a student of acclaimed violinists Jaime Laredo and Jan Mark Sloman, Lee makes sure to point out that having the scholarship support has allowed her to focus on her priorities and plan for the future.  

“Essentially, the scholarship makes life easier, provides the resources I need to improve and prepare, and gives me more time to figure out my priorities and focus on them,” said Lee. “That – plus the fact that I am so happy with my teachers and I get to play with, and for, other wonderful musicians – leaves me no excuse for not doing my best!”

And when she’s not practicing, winning competitions or performing as a soloist with world-class orchestras, the well-traveled Lee has been studying new languages such as Japanese and German through CIM partner Case Western Reserve University. 

Born in Canada and raised in the Dallas suburb of Plano, TX, Lee began studying violin at age 4 and made her solo debut at 12 with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Two years later she performed in Europe with Christof Perick and the Nuremberg Philharmonic. Discovered by Sloman in Texas at age 8, Lee also has studied with such artists as the late David Nadien, former concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic; Arnold Steinhardt, celebrated violinist who founded the famed Guarnieri String Quartet; and violist and violinist Ida Kavafian, a member of the faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music, the Juilliard School and Bard Conservatory of Music.

Praised universally by her teachers, respected by her fellow students and judged regularly by classical music luminaries all over the world, Lee remains focused, introspective and humble, and very relaxed about her future. She also credits the support of everyone at CIM, especially Laredo and Sloman, with guiding her on a successful path towards life as a professional classical musician.

“Being the first-ever recipient of this scholarship has meant receiving support from CIM in so many ways,” Lee said. “My teachers Mr. Laredo and Mr. Sloman always encourage me to do more and the results have been surprising to myself. They also guide me in making decisions related to programming and career opportunities. While nothing is set in stone yet about my future, I know that variety is a good thing. It’s cool to see how Mr. Laredo balances it all. I’ve been focusing on solo performance which is exciting and challenging, but I want to keep chamber music, orchestra and teaching in the mix as well.”

So, who knows? Maybe a future recipient of the Mary Hamlin Memorial Presidential Scholarship will be able to say he or she studied with illustrious classical violinist Shannon Lee, the CIM student who it was awarded to first.

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