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Alumnae Achievement Awards 2009

Barbara Lea '51
Jazz Vocalist
Foremost interpreter of “The American Songbook”

Barbara Lea ’51 (Barbara Leacock) is one of the most widely respected and admired interpreters of the classic American popular song. An uncompromising jazz singer with style and taste, she has been called “one of the greatest singers of our time” by the New York Times. Her long career has taken her from cabarets and concert stages in Boston to recording studios and the theatres across the world.

Her professional career started upon graduation and her early recordings were met with immediate critical acclaim. In 1956, Ms. Lea won the DownBeat International Critics’ Poll Award as the best new singer. During her career, Ms. Lea has played with Marian McPartland, George Wein, and Bobby Hackett. In 1978, she appeared on the groundbreaking public radio show American Popular Song with Alec Wilder. The program won a Peabody Award and was responsible for the resurgence in her career - leading to albums, performances, and rave notices by the New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Nation.

Although Ms. Lea was an authoritative interpreter of Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart, and Noel Coward, in her recordings and performances she has made sure to include some lesser-known composers that she felt deserved attention. Her 1996 album, Fine and Dandy, highlighted works from women songwriters whom she felt never got sufficient exposure. Her most recent CD, issued in 2007, “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?” was recorded with the Bob Havens Jazz Band in New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. Ms. Lea has recorded over 450 songs throughout her career.

Duke Ellington and Barbara Lea
Wellesley Graduation, 1951


Barbara Lea at the Provincetown Art Association, Provincetown, MA
August 2003
Dick Miller, piano (and concert organizer)



For more information about the Alumnae Achievement Awards, please contact us by email at specialprograms@alum.wellesley.edu or call the Alumnae Association at 781-283-2331.