Tucked away on 100 South, in the heart of Heber City, there’s a magical, little place that has been enriching the lives of children and adults for over 22 years.
Lee Music provides a serious music education. It takes the general idea of private music lessons and instantly ratchets up the possibilities. Whether you love classical sonatas, or dream about riffing on the electric guitar, there is a teacher who will take your dream seriously and lead you along the way to mastery — or slaying on the guitar.
As a young toddler, Winston Lee would lie underneath his mother’s grand piano while she played. He was also shaped by the complex sounds and storytelling of Prokofiev’s orchestral “Peter and the Wolf” which he listened to several times a day. When Winston was seven, his mother started his piano training. Winston recalls,“I would throw the music on the floor because I was able to memorize songs quickly. My mother took me to B.Y.U. at age eight to audition for Dr. Pollei. He took me on as a student and I began practicing four hours a day.” At the age of nine, Winston became the youngest instrumentalist to perform with the Utah Valley Symphony where he performed Mozart’s 19th Piano Concerto. That led to spending his youth practicing piano and participating in many competitions; Winston received many awards along the way.
Winston shares that he eventually, “[…] burned out at around fourteen and stopped competing. When I was sixteen I worked at The Homestead dining room as a pianist. I enjoyed playing there, but still had no desire to compete. Finally, at age nineteen I had a desire to study music and received a full tuition scholarship at Utah State where I studied with Professor Amano. While at the University, I taught piano at the Conservatory on campus. I felt like I was effective in not only my ability to teach, but also in my ability to connect with students. It was very fulfilling. From that time to the present, teaching has been my passion.”
In speaking with a parent of one of Winston’s students she mentioned specifically choosing him because of his competition-level training and artistry that was tempered by his priority to keep music joyful for the students. Another mom whose children were with Winston for over 10 years, she shared, “In addition to his mastery of the piano and ability to teach skills, I appreciate how much he taught the ‘Whole Student’. The music was never more important than my child, and I think that Winston’s experience with having burned out made him an inspired teacher who always nurtured their interests in music in such a quiet, kind, way by simply allowing the music to motivate them.”
After college, Winston set up private lessons in Heber. “For several years, I taught about sixty piano students at Winston Lee Piano Studio which was housed in a small room at my dad’s store: The House of Fine Arts where he sold gift items and original paintings, as well as provided custom framing for customers. Eventually, my dad allowed me to build two more teaching studios in the store to bring in three more teachers: Russ-guitar, Kirk-violin, and Heather-saxophone. The four of us taught there for a few months before my dad was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away two months after his diagnosis.”
After his father’s passing, Winston saw a “For Rent” sign at the current location on 55 West 100 South. “I contacted the owners, Jim and Norma Fosgate. They were excited to have a music studio open up in their building and told me about the history of the building. Jim originally bought the building, and it became Audionics, where he developed sound equipment under the name of Rockford Fosgate. Notably, he won an Emmy in technology for designing what is now known as “Surround Sound,” which is used in homes and theaters all over the world. He sold the patent to Dolby.”
Dedicated to developing a music school with a variety of instruction, the new location started humbly with two crates of sheet music to sell and four teachers.
EXPANSION, SHAPING LIVES AND LIFTING HEARTS
“I had seven studios built inside to expand instrument lessons. People supported us right from the start. They came in asking if I would carry guitar strings, reeds, instrument cables, etc. I installed some slat wall and bought hooks and filled it with musical accessories that had been requested. I also recruited teachers on various instruments. Today, we have sixteen teachers, a school of rock program, rental instruments, guitars, ukuleles, and musical accessories. We opened in August of 2000 with tremendous support from the community: without them, Lee Music would not exist.”
Lee Music’s teachers provide lessons in the afternoons and evenings when students are out of school or work with a variety of private lessons and group instruction. Lee’s also has lessons in the form of rock bands through Lee Music School of Rock. The school also rents and sells guitars, ukuleles, violins, violas, and cellos, as well as providing minor repairs on instruments and changing strings.
There are multiple University and private studies citing the benefits of music to the brain and general well-being for those who play music or simply listen. It’s not just for those seeking a career in music. Winston feels that music touches the heart and lifts the spirit of every human being and it’s never too late to start. He mentioned that his adult students are often his most dedicated since they have great discipline to practice.
ALUMNI KEEPS GROWING
By having a serious music school available in Heber, kids from all along the Wasatch Back have access to life-changing opportunities. Some of his former students, now professional musicians, composers, and songwriters shared their insights.
“Winston and Lee Music shaped my childhood, and eventually my adulthood, by giving me opportunities both with performance and collaboration. Winston was completely unique as a piano teacher in his approach to music theory, improvisation, song writing, accompaniment, and playing music with other people in ensembles. The way he taught made music feel deeply accessible and fun, like anything was possible and that I could do anything I wanted to do with music. I feel like Winston didn’t just teach me how to play the piano, he taught me how to speak the language of music.” Stefania Barr of Shrink the Giant
“Winston did a good job at responding to my personal interests and needs. I wanted to learn all the Beethoven sonatas that I could and he supported me in that interest. Later, when I taught music, I found that it helps to keep kids interested when they get to choose the music that they want to learn so they can become the type of musician that they want to be. Winston encouraged a variety of approaches to learning music. Sometimes maybe a very strict classical teacher will focus on reading music and perfecting your execution and technique, and that is important. But if you don’t also teach improvisations, harmonies that exist outside of classical music, like in jazz for example, the process of creativity in composition, then you’re really lacking something in your musical education. I think I got a well-rounded music education in technique, learning discipline for practice, learning creativity, composition, improvisation, and how to dissect music to understand theory.” Jean-Christian Barr of Shrink the Giant
The mission of Lee Music is to provide high quality musical instruction and inspire students to bring music into their lives. Winston shared, “What makes me most proud of our accomplishments are watching former students continue pursuing music after their time at Lee Music. It’s also rewarding when former students drop by and visit us. They let us know how grateful they are that we gave them such a positive experience with music when they were growing up. We’ve had an exciting 22 years and really appreciate the enthusiasm and support we’ve received along the way. As long as people still believe in music, we’ll just keep on moving forward.”
“Practice Every Day” At least 20 minutes and it will still provide great benefit.
- Piano is recommended for all students because it helps them to make sense out of any other instrument they pursue later.
- You’re never too old to start learning an instrument. You should just jump into it. I’ve found that adult beginners are some of my best students.
- Students should be encouraged to learn whatever instrument they are drawn to.
If someone has been playing all their lives, they should continue to do so. I still practice, arrange and compose music for about two hours each day.