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Motivated Music Maker Combines Critical Thinking and Musical Aptitude to Enhance Cultural Awareness

With the new year just underway, we are excited to begin sharing our WHS student stories with the Student Spotlight Profile! The series has been expanded beyond our seniors to include students in any grade. Please join us in celebrating our students and honoring their accomplishments. See our first spotlight below.

Growing up, Joshua Lee remembers his mother often playing music around him. Back then, Spotify didn’t exist, just the silvery, shiny disks that were purchased in music stores. “My parents aren’t musicians, but they’ve always had an appreciation for music,” he said. “My mom would play classical music, jazz duets, and chamber music on CDs. It’s such a strong memory of mine.” It’s no wonder then, that at the age of eight, Joshua found an interest in music that would ultimately shape how he connects with the world.

Joshua, a junior at Woodlands High School, plays the piano, cello, and saxophone. He has been a member of the jazz and concert bands since his freshman year. Last year he was one of a few students to be selected by Mr. Kennedy to join professional musicians in the pit to play for the WMHS musical “Fame”. Joshua’s commitment to music at the school level is equally matched by his commitment to academics. He is in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, taking all IB High-Level courses this year. “The workload is very rigorous and it pushes you towards deeper understanding to prepare you for real-world situations,” he said. “Thinking outside the box, striving to be a better person, honing time management skills, and a strong work ethic are all qualities I have grown within myself.”

Extracurricularly, for the past five years Joshua has been enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music where he receives college-level piano instruction and music studies. During his time there he realized there was an underrepresentation of Asian composers in his studies. Wanting to connect with his culture through music history, he decided to do research on his own. His IB studies served as a platform to explore this further. 

“IB focuses on emphasizing multicultural perspectives. In music studies, IB really puts students inside the music through a wide variety of compositions and genres,” he said. “IB gives much more knowledge beyond just learning the material.” The end result was Joshua’s paper Addressing the Lack of Asian Composers and Administration in Western Culture, which was published in the Journal of Student Review this past August. Currently, he is working on a revision with a PhD. candidate at Cambridge University for inclusion in The Georgetown University Asian Affairs Journal.  

Joshua is a lifelong student of the Greenburgh Central School District, and his accomplishments as a high school student are impressive, to say the least. A self-starter and agent for opportunity and leadership, he is the Founder and Director of ‘Composers Unveiled’, a nonprofit organization with chapters in six states. Its mission is to bring composers into the spotlight and perform their works to expand repertoires that include living composers from diverse backgrounds. At WHS, he is the President of S.A.F.E, OCA-WHV Asian American Scholarship winner, member of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Committee, and he worked with Ms. Johnson to start the first chapter of the Tri-M National Music Society at Woodlands High School. “Enhancement and advancement support for all students is important to me,” said Joshua. “For a school like ours, broadening awareness around diversity - of which we are lucky to have diversity within our diversity - will benefit us all as a community.”

Joshua credits his family for his high level of motivation. “My family has been very supportive of me. I want to be able to take full advantage of that support,” he said. And then there’s his GCSD family, too. “I am grateful for my amazing teachers who encourage me to really think and put in my best performance,” he said. “And, of course, Dr. Foy, whose door is always open for anything you need. He’s like an extra parent, someone I can always rely upon.”

As Joshua looks towards the future, college is definitely on the horizon. His first choice will most likely be Columbia University, for its well-known Asian Studies and Humanities program. And even further in the distance, Joshua thinks he’d like to become a professor. Inspired by his teachers, he knows what he’ll take from them on his journey there. “Mr. Kennedy’s open discussion and socratic seminar, Ms. Rella’s passion, and Mr. Rounds’ exacting nature.”