“Look at those piano fingers,” Briana Lee’s mom said when she held her newborn baby girl for the first time 22 years ago. The William Jessup University sophomore jokes about it now, but Lee’s mom certainly knew what she was talking about – her daughter started playing piano at the age of 3.
Bringing her musical talent to the growing university, the music major is also a member of William Jessup University’s Choir and Orchestra and Masterworks Choral, both traveling musical performance groups.
Growing up with two musically gifted parents, Lee’s father was on tour performing as a praise and worship band member with the Promise Keepers world tour and has performed with other well-known jazz artists around the world. Her mom plays the piano, sings and recently recorded a new CD. Her father is currently the pastor at Celebration Christian Church in Auburn, where Lee attends and her mom serves as worship pastor.
“I grew up thinking it was perfectly normal to have your dad go and tour Indonesia with a worship band,” Lee said. “I come from a musical family; it’s a huge part of who we are and it is my passion.”
A former student at the Los Angeles Music Academy, Lee decided to return to Northern California to have surgery. While she recovered, she had an opportunity to decide exactly what direction she wanted her music career to go.
“I knew that above all, I wanted to get my bachelor’s degree,” Lee recalled. “And I really felt that I needed to stay put in this area.”
She enrolled at Sierra College and set her sights on one day transferring to Jessup.
As she continued to recover from her surgery, Lee taught music with a program developed by her church known as “Celebration Cares,” which promotes music in schools.
“Many area schools have had so many budget cuts that they aren’t able to provide students with a viable music program,” Lee explained. “We saw the need and wanted to reach out.”
Lee worked with students from E.V. Cain Middle School, where she was able to share her love of music with local youth.
Last December, Lee attended a Christmas concert at WJU that her to continue to pursue coming to Jessup. She auditioned for the university’s highly regarded music program last June with the goal of starting Jessup in the fall of 2013.
“It all moved so much faster than I had ever expected,” Lee recalled. She received a music and academic scholarship to attend Jessup and started school in August when the university saw its largest enrollment ever.
“Coming to Jessup was a ‘God thing’ all the way,” Lee said. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for those scholarships or grants that I had no idea I was eligible for. I’m so thankful to Jessup’s donors.”
The Colfax High School graduate and native also works at Roseville’s One Eleven Recording Studios in the heart of historic old town Roseville. She teaches voice, piano and beginning flute.
When she isn’t studying or teaching, Lee can be found performing at various gigs around the Sacramento region. She recently sang at a cancer benefit and also sings at weddings and other events. In addition, she performs with the Courage 2BU house band known as “The Reel” and continues to work with well-known smooth jazz performers Tom Braxton and Andre Delano.