Artist spotlight: Mason Lee

Mia Wilson

UWO student Mason Lee is a performer and a composer. Below: Lee recently won a national title for his composition "Of Light."
[/media-credit] UWO student Mason Lee is a performer and a composer. Below: Lee recently won a national title for his composition “Of Light.”
[/media-credit] Mason Lee

UW Oshkosh music composition student Mason Lee has achieved recent success with his composition piece, “Of Light,” where he was awarded first prize in the 2016 Portland Percussion Group’s National Call for Scores Contest.

Lee’s composition, “Trio For Wood” was also selected to be performed by three UWO students this November at the 2016 Society of Composers, Inc. National Student Conference at Ball State University.

Lee said a podcast helped ignite inspiration for his pieces.

“My piece, ‘Of Light,’ was inspired by a podcast I like called RadioLab,” Lee said. “They always have exceedingly interesting topics and there was an episode where they examine colors through literary history. I began to create motives for each color and as the whole piece went on I tried to blend one musical motive to the next, as the colors do visually. The piece was an attempt at representing an aural rainbow, rather than a visual one.”

According to Lee, “Trio for Wood” was outside of his comfort zone, but he was motivated by one driving force.

“My piece, ‘Trio for Wood,’ was on the opposite of my compositional side,” Lee said. “Where in ‘Of Light’ I had an abundance of motives and ideas, I tried to work with only one motive that was strictly just rhythmic.”

Lee said his love for music began in middle school, ten years ago.

“My passion for music first started when I joined my high school’s marching band Sound of Sun Prairie. After my first year of marching, I was in every available music activity at my high school and I even went to a drum line a couple towns over during the winter to keep playing.”

UWO Junior Nicole Pronger said for as long as she has known Lee, he has been involved in music.

“He really treats every note with care,” Pronger said. “He puts himself in the music and works very hard.”

Though Lee said he has been heavily involved in music during his time here at Oshkosh, he didn’t always know he wanted to do music composition.

“I came in as a general Bachelor’s of Music,” Lee said. “Then in my freshman year, I decided performance and composition were things that sounded attractive to me, so I changed my degree.”

Lee said when he first started composing, things weren’t going as expected.

“But now, after three years of study, I’ve seen quite a bit of success,” Lee said. “My process is about figuring out some musical idea I have in my head and how I can take this small thing and vary it and make it interesting enough for people to play and listen to.”

Lee said his decision to stay at UWO has been a continued gift.

“I am constantly ecstatic that I chose UW Oshkosh as my college,” Lee said. “The music faculty here is experienced, knowledgeable and supportive beyond words.”

Lee said music professor Edward Martin was essential to the completion of “Of Light.”

“Dr. Martin helped me perfect my piece, ‘Of Light,’ as I was writing it, with lots of help and input from many other faculty members. Dr. [Alison]Shaw and Dr. [Elizabeth] DeLamater [have] been instrumental in giving the percussion studio and music department amazing opportunities.”

Music professor John Mayrose said Lee is a highly motivated music student who has a bright future in music ahead of him.

“He has sought out opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be available to him,” Mayrose said. “He is active as a composer and a performer, which combined is great.”

According to Lee, he hopes to continue his education and understands his career could go anywhere, but he has a strong connection to his home state.

“In five years I would hope to be still writing and performing music,” Lee said. “”I’ll probably continue on to grad school after finishing my Bachelor’s at Oshkosh. No matter where I move or live, I believe that Wisconsin will always be my home.”