by Sarah Veber 

The music industry can be a difficult one to navigate, especially beyond the safety net that post secondary institutions provide. To David Lee, music education involves more than just mastering an instrument. It’s about providing performance and networking opportunities to young musicians who are trying to make it big after graduation.

This belief ultimately led to the creation of the Toronto Undergraduate Jazz Festival. David’s experience with event planning in the music industry has certainly been an asset to the success of such a large scale project. Being from South Korea, David experimented with playing drums after seeing them used in a local church. At that point, his passion for music was sparked. Not having the resources or funds to pursue music education further, he managed to convince a teacher to provide him with 3 free months of training. After completing college, David spent 7 years organizing performances and running music festivals at home in South Korea. He quickly found his niche within the music industry.

Seven years into this line of work, David heard a Canadian jazz band perform at one of his events. The group was composed of professors from Humber College, including Mark Kelso, with whom he wanted to study. Inspired and amazed, David inquired into the possibility of transferring to Canada as a student. The next day he auditioned and was accepted on the spot.

After spending a few months learning English and navigating the industry in Toronto, David was invited to attend the Coalition for Music Education’s 2015 symposium. It was there that he finally connected with like minded and passionate individuals. David has been involved with the Coalition ever since and has shaped music appreciation within his community.

David had a vision to provide young musicians with opportunities to showcase talent and collaborate with artists beyond the confines of school. Building a broad network and skillset is important for any musician in order to navigate the real world and to build a career beyond graduation. Toronto’s Undergraduate Festival does just that by providing paid performance opportunities and numerous workshops in one central location. David, with the help of many dedicated individuals, realized his vision in 2015 with the first annual Undergraduate Jazz Festival.

David attributes his success to a lot of hard work and planning. His advice for anyone in school is to make long term plans; 10, 20, even 30 years into the future. Too often, students find themselves unsure of what to do beyond school. David believes passionately that this can be avoided by setting goals and envisioning life far into the future. Find a passion and follow it.

There are big dreams ahead for the Toronto Undergraduate Jazz Festival. The goal is to take the idea international and bring musicians together from various backgrounds. David’s success is proof that where there’s a will, there’s a way.