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2020 ASCAP and SJO Commissioning Prize Winner Announced

Jihye Lee is the sixth composer to win the annual ASCAP Foundation/Symphonic Jazz Orchestra prize

Jihye Lee
Jihye Lee, jazz composer (photo: SY Cho)

The ASCAP Foundation and the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra (SJO) have announced that the winner of the sixth annual ASCAP Foundation/SJO Commissioning Prize is Jihye Lee, a New York-based jazz composer and bandleader.

Born in South Korea, Lee studied voice performance at Dongduk Women’s University in Seoul and later performed as a pop singer/songwriter before transitioning to the world of jazz. She then moved to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music, where she began her path in jazz composition. Since diving into big-band and orchestral writing, Lee has written for such groups as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Carnegie Hall’s NYO Jazz. 

“Jihye Lee is emerging as a strong voice in the ‘next generation’ of composers for large jazz ensemble,” says pianist and educator Jim McNeely in a press kit for Lee. “Her music is imaginative and creative. And she’s not afraid to take some exciting chances in her writing. I strongly urge you to check her out.”

The Commissioning Prize awards $5,000 to Lee for the composition of a new orchestral score, blending jazz and classical music, to be performed by the 68-piece SJO in its 2021-22 season. The prize was created to honor the memory of keyboardist/producer/composer George Duke, the SJO co-music director and an ASCAP board member, who passed away in 2013.

Lee comments, “This is beyond exciting and I can’t wait to write music for the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra.” Plans are for a performance of Lee’s commissioned work to be performed at a free, live community concert at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach, Calif., when people are able to safely gather again.


The ASCAP Foundation/SJO Commissioning Prize is made possible in part by a grant from the ASCAP Foundation Louis Armstrong Fund and the SJO’s Commissioning Club.

For more information, visit SJO’s website.