Alumni Spotlight: Frances Lee

Frances Lee

Frances Lee started studying guitar with Lane when she was so young she still needed an after-school snack before settling down to her lessons. We caught up with this recent college grad on her favorite Bird memories, life lessons and what’s next.

What are you doing now, and how is music a part of your life? 

I very recently returned to the states from Greece. I was there all year playing professional volleyball, so that was a really cool experience. As far as the second part of the question, being how is music a part of my life, one of the really cool things about being over there (among many) is that my days were pretty free because we practiced heavily in the evening, so I had a lot of free time during the day. So, I spent the whole year writing a lot of music. I lugged over a condenser microphone and recorded a lot of songs too, which was awesome because during undergrad and high school I was so over scheduled and busy. I just released a song, which is funny because I basically went very viral on TikTok for an unrelated video about Lebron and had a song I was still mixing, and I figured I should probably capitalize on the insane social media traffic I was getting. It was exciting because I have never shared music through such a public platform before. Now I am home in the states, and I’m currently in LA and I am writing a lot still. Music is always a huge part of my life whether I am making it and producing it, or just listening to a lot and humming all the time and maybe annoying people. 

What are some of your favorite memories from Bird, and how has your time here influenced you?

I started doing guitar lessons with Lane when I was 6, which I think at the time was younger than he usually would teach, but my mom basically begged him because I was so obsessed with trying to become Hilary Duff in Lizzy Mcguire. He would come to my house and literally I was so young that I needed to have an after-school snack, so Lane and I would eat popcorn or any after-school snack together and I would learn “Yellow Submarine” and other songs. I really do still have fond memories of those songs. Then I was in a band, “Phone Booth,” for many years and I loved the tech weeks where everyone would hang out and jam and eat pizza and run around.

Another memory from my time at Bird was when I was 7 or 8 and we sang “Let’s Get it On” by Marvin Gaye. In retrospect, it’s so wild that they let us do that, but I recently found a video of it and we were so cute and it was actually quite a good performance! That’s also a very fond memory of mine and it’s a really funny story looking back.

Another really cool thing about Bird is that not only is it a great place to learn and explore music but it was also such a fun social experience and such a good way to meet other kids. I was chucked into a band with a bunch of SF Day boys, and I was the only girl and a year younger than all of them, so it was initially intimidating but it wound up really opening up my social horizons. 

Then: Frances rocking a Bird concert
(Photo by Paolo Vescia)

Which of Lane’s famous life lessons has most resonated with you? 

I generally always remember if I was trying to learn a new riff or solo on the guitar, Lane would make me go painfully or glacially slow, and I obviously just wanted to rip into it and go so fast immediately, but he forced me to just go extremely, extremely slow and that’s honestly the only way to learn it. I swear I think about that a lot, whether I am trying to get better at chopping stuff in the kitchen, or snowboarding, or of course in music. Seriously just taking it slow and gradually increasing pace is kind of a hard thing to remember sometimes, but I hear it in my head all the time when I m trying to master a new skill. I think it’s applicable to everything. It’s crazy because I don’t get to talk to him that often, but Lane is still such a force in my life like I am sure he is for a lot of other people you have talked to. He is such an incredible mentor for so many kids and young adults in the Bay Area.

What new music did you discover in the past year that you would recommend? 

I’m super obsessed with Samia’s new album, called “The Baby,” and I listen to it from start to finish at least a few times a week. It’s a little more pop-y than Phoebe Bridgers but lyrically it reminds me of Phoebe, and she is just so good. Arlo Parks is another artist I have been loving. She just won Breakthrough Artist at the Brits. Also Adrianne Lenker. [Hear Frances’s favorite artists in this month’s Bird Playlist]

What is next for you, and how will you bring music into that?

It’s a little up in the air, and I am doing my best to embrace that. I am one year out of undergrad and I just got back from being abroad, so I am a little uncomfortable with not knowing, but I’m trying to remember that it’s okay and I have gotten to spend a lot of time with music which I have always wanted to be able to do. So I guess I am really taking Lane’s advice a little right now and I am taking it slow, but I know music will continue to be a part of that. 

For more alumni memories, see our Alumni page. Are you an alumni who’d like to be featured? Please get in touch with us!

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