That Famous White Trench Coat

Before I leave Chicago, I want to talk about one of the most influential people in my life. This is Josephine Lee, the President and Artistic Director of the Chicago Children’s Choir, or CCC for short. I have been a part of CCC for 5 years and have personally known Ms. Lee for 4 of them. She is an inspiration to countless people, and she leaves a lasting impression wherever she goes.

I met Ms. Lee at an audition for a CCC special project. It was a collaboration with the Lyric Opera House for the opera ‘La Boheme.’ I was nervous as it was my first opera audition. I was fidgeting in my chair, waiting for instructions, when a woman in a long, white trench coat walked in. She had on sunglasses, and her hair blew with the gust of wind that came from the door opening. She instructed us to stand up as she walked over to the piano and began to play, guiding us through a couple of vocal warm-ups before the audition began. This interaction solidified my love for music because, ever since that moment, I have strived to affect people with my music the way she affected me with hers. I never thought I could be just like her, but if I was even half as cool, I’d know I had succeeded in life.

I kept doing operas after La Boheme, still working with Ms. Lee, who often wore that long white trench coat. She’d talk to us about issues in the world and how they affected us as kids. She’d speak about ‘tech neck’ and how social media could be used as a tool and, more importantly, as a weapon. She gave us life lessons and taught us how to use our voices. My musicality, and voice in general, improved tenfold and I never stopped loving music.

In 2019, my choir director, Megan Caroll, urged me to audition for a special project that, aside from the music, I knew nothing about. I did, and was accepted through to the second round of auditions. At this audition, Ms. Lee guided me and the other auditioner through the music, and helped us gain the confidence we needed to perform well.  Then, I was chosen for the project and Ms. Lee was with me every step of the way, through the recording studio and the filming. She helped me any way she could.

As I am going off to boarding school, I really wanted to shine a spotlight on all of the amazing things this incredible musician has done for me, and the world at large. She wrote me a letter of recommendation to Interlochen Arts Academy, which I was then accepted to. But as she spoke about my achievements, I couldn’t help but think that a large portion of them were because of her support and guidance in my musical career. The mission of the choir is to inspire and change lives through music and I know that, for me, the choir has done just that. When you’re given an opportunity to work with Ms. Lee, you know that you’re going to be worked to the bone. But you also know that by the end of it, you’ll be able to say that you’ve done your best work. As I take my final bow as a CCC singer, I know I can truly say, I’ve done my best work these past five years, and that is all thanks to Josephine Lee and that famous white trench coat.

Amina Gorman – Phillips Academy Andover – DMSF Class of 2026

Image credit: Brian Gorman, 2019