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Total Transformation

Moody music professor Brian Lee’s hunger for the Bible began later in life, leading to a whole new outlook—and a stint as a Today in the Word author

By Anneliese Rider  /  June 13, 2024

Moody music professor and Today in the Word author Dr. Brian Lee

Dr. Brian Lee, professor of Music and Media Arts at Moody Bible Institute, has played the piano on stages around the world—but in a casual conversation, you wouldn’t hear about it. Instead, you’d hear about his passion for studying God’s Word and helping students know and follow Jesus.

Brian was born in South Korea, but his family moved to Canada when he was three years old. His parents were saved and became connected to a local church, and Brian was involved in church—everything from the worship team to mission trips—for as long as he can remember.

Music and marriage

With a dream to become a high school band or choir director, he enrolled at Wheaton College to major in music education. But early on he realized he wanted to be a professor, so he switched to a performance major with a focus on the piano.

During his junior year, Brian met Helen while they were both working at the college library. The first time they spoke to each other, Brian was sitting behind the circulation desk, and Helen was checking out books.

“I think my first words to her were, ‘You’re Helen,’” Brian remembers, smiling. “And she told me, ‘You’re Brian.’ I don’t think either of us would say it was an instant connection.”

But what wasn’t exactly a meet-cute moment eventually turned romantic. After earning his bachelor of music degree in 1995, Brian married Helen in 1996. He went on to pursue his MA in music from the New England Conservatory and began to use his degree to play the piano whenever and wherever he got the chance.

Moody connection

Brian and Helen moved to Northwest Iowa in 2001 so he could gain teaching experience. They spent two years in Iowa and had their first son there while Brian worked on his doctorate and taught at a small Christian college, but it was their long-term goal to live in Chicago.

“We made the decision to move to Chicago, in part because both of us had professional contacts here and a network and also a church that we were at that time connected to,” Brian says.

He called around and found out that Moody was hiring. Brian started as an adjunct professor in 2003 while completing his doctorate in musical arts from The Juilliard School.

“When I first started, I thought of it as a career move,” Brian says. “That sounds kind of cold, but I was young—I was still getting my terminal degree, and I thought, ‘I just need to get teaching experience.’ I enjoyed meeting students. I enjoyed teaching music and piano, of course. That was my passion and my area of interest.”

Convicted to read the Bible

In 2004, Brian finished his doctorate and took a full-time teaching position at Moody, and for the next 13 years everything was smooth sailing. He played piano at his church and in venues around the world, including Bargemusic in New York City, the Dame Myra Hess Concert Series in Chicago, concert halls across China, and as part of collaborations with members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He also had two more sons and the whole time went through the motions of living as a Christian.

He wouldn’t have said anything was wrong. But in 2017, everything changed.

Brian became the head of Moody’s Music program, a positon he held until 2020. Now that he was in a position of leadership at a Bible college, he was suddenly convicted about his own relationship with Christ.

Brian Lee with some of his students at Moody Bible Institute


“I realized, ‘I’m not sure how much I really gave my entire life to the Lord,’” Brian says. Between his own education, his piano performances, and his career, he’d never really studied the Bible for himself or given his whole heart to Christ.

‘It started to change my outlook on life in every way’

“I decided to get more serious with just knowing God’s Word. And so for the first time in my life, I sat down and decided to read the book cover to cover,” Brian says. He began reading, and the further into the Bible he got, the more it made a difference.

“It started to rewire my mind. It started to change my outlook on life in every way.”

Instead of only training students in music, which still remained a passion, Brian now saw his eternal role as a Moody professor: “I’m here to shepherd students. I’m here to point students to the Word of God and to truth.”

Bible study also changed his entire family and what they emphasized at home. His life became characterized by striving to serve God well, and he continues to read the Bible, cover to cover, every year. Brian’s focus in his music career also shifted—instead of being drawn to the grandeur of concert halls, he became passionate about the spiritually renewing practice of church worship.

“You know, I've had some really cool opportunities with different venues and different musicians,” Brian says. “But if I were to point to what’s most meaningful, it would be the local church that I'm a part of now and accompanying the Moody Chorale.”

It ‘stirred my heart’

Dr. Brian Lee during his Today in the Word video interview with Managing Editor Jamie Janosz

Dr. Brian Lee during his Today in the Word video interview with Managing Editor Jamie Janosz

Brian hadn’t been planning on writing for Today in the Word, but when Managing Editor Jamie Janosz presented the opportunity, it caught Brian’s attention.

“Jamie came to a faculty meeting maybe a couple of years ago and said, ‘Hey, we’re looking for new faculty writers,’” Brian remembers. “That stirred my heart a little bit because I thought, ‘Oh, you know, I’ve been in the Word. Maybe I have something to offer.’”

Brian started talking to Jamie, and before long he was assigned his first issue: writing the daily devotionals for May 2024 under the theme “Sing to the Lord: Music in the Bible.”

Brian says the devotionals talk about how Scripture should inform every part of our lives, including music in the church. “I tried to highlight passages in Scripture that say something specifically about music. The devotionals are centered around the call to the church to really think about music and how we sing.”

Now, after seven years spent in fervent pursuit of God and His Word, Brian’s teaching, performances, and writing all revolve around one goal: leading people to study God’s Word and truly know and love Jesus Christ.