Riley Lee began playing the shakuhachi in Japan in 1971, under the guidance of Chikuho Sakai II and Katsuya Yokoyama.
In the early 1970s, he became the very first non-Japanese professional taiko player, as a founding member of Ondekoza. In 1980, he became the ﬁrst non-Japanese to attain Grand Master (dai shihan) rank in shakuhachi.
Riley has a PhD in ethnomusicology from Sydney University, and a BA and MA in music from the University of Hawai’i. He was a research fellow at Osaka Unversity of Fine Arts. He has made over ﬁfty shakuhachi recordings, which are distributed worldwide. His most recent releases are on the Sounds True label (USA). He has composed numerous pieces for shakuhachi and other instruments.
Riley taught at University of Hawai’i for six years, and in 2007 started a shakuhachi program at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. A frequent guest lecturer at Princeton University since 2006, Riley recently created and taught a semester-long course there on the mind, memory, meditation and mindfulness and music, based on the latest research in cognitive science.
In 1997, he co-founded TaikOz with Ian Cleworth. He was the Artistic Director and Executive Producer of the 2008 World Shakuhachi Festival in Sydney.
Riley tours the world as a performer and teacher of the shakuhachi ﬂute for three or four months a year. He has released over sixty albums internationally. His latest 3CD set is of music by Hildegard von Bingen.
Riley enjoys running long distances, and joined the elite age group of “70 and over” marathon runners in 2021. Riley lives with Patricia in Manly NSW.
Riley Lee plays “Cascading Waterfall”
“When She Was Three”, from Riley Lee, Elena Kats-Chernin and Christina Leonard’s album “Wind Song”