Death of Recent Graduate Saddens Oberlin Community
Apr. 21, 2009
Marci Janas ’91
Organist Songsun Lee, who earned a master of music degree in historical performance from Oberlin in 2008 and an artist diploma in organ performance in 2006, following studies with Professor of Organ James David Christie, was killed Saturday, April 18, in a car accident in Vero Beach, Florida. The news was reported on TCPalm.com, a news web site covering Florida’s southeastern coastal region.
Lee, 31, a native of Seoul, South Korea, was associate music director of the Community Church of Vero Beach. A memorial service is scheduled for Thursday, April 23, at 5:30 p.m. in the Community Church sanctuary. A memorial service in Oberlin is planned for Wednesday, April 29, at 8 p.m. in Finney Chapel.
“Songsun Lee was truly an artist of outstanding ability,” says Christie. “She loved the United States and the people she met here; it was her hope to remain in the U.S. She was already a beloved member of her church family and her congregation will be inconsolable.”
Christie received word of the tragic news in a phone call from the Community Church’s Music Director, Dr. Jose Daniel Flores.
“Dr. Flores said Holy Week and Easter 2009 were the best he had ever experienced in all his years at the church,” Christie says. “Following the final Sunday service this past week, he took Songsun aside and told her how grateful he was and that it was because of her support and excellent work that the services went so beautifully this Easter.”
Lee received several honors during her Oberlin years. In June 2007 she was one of only 16 finalists invited to compete in the International Organ Interpretation Competition, held in Nürnberg, Germany. Part of International Organ Week, it is among the most important international organ competitions, certainly one of Germany’s largest and oldest festivals of sacred and organ music. Just a few months before, Lee took first prize in the San Marino Elizabeth Elftman Organ Competition, held in March in San Marino, California. Her prize included a cash award of $1,000 and a winner’s recital. The previous year she won won second prize in the Fort Wayne (Indiana) National Organ Playing Competition.
Oberlin audiences will recall her March 2006 performance on Oberlin’s Flentrop organ of J.S. Bach’s Trio Sonata V in C Major as part of the Conservatory’s celebration honoring the composer’s 321st birthday. Michael Barone ’68, a senior executive producer at Minnesota Public Radio and the host and producer of American Public Media’s radio program Pipedreams, was the master of ceremonies for that event. He provides this recollection:
”As part of a Pipedreams Live! broadcast on WCLV-Cleveland, celebrating Bach’s birthday in 2006, Songsun Lee played a Trio Sonata for us. Bach provides sufficient pressure for any organist attempting this repertoire, as his transparent textures offer ‘no hiding place.’ But despite the fact that she was being heard by thousands of unseen listeners beyond the crowd assembled in Warner Concert Hall, Songsun’s performance was nuanced, lyric, and lively, calmly in control yet also vibrantly alive. Her talent was authentic, and now we all will miss the chance to watch it blossom.”
A video of Songsun Lee playing Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in G Major, BWV 550, on the Vero Beach Community Church organ, is available for viewing here.