Welcome to Ethel Lee’s world of jazz, standards, Motown, blues and more!

Singing is a passion for Ethel. She has loved to sing for as long as she can remember. Born in Evergreen, Alabama as the oldest daughter of four children to Reverend W.J. Sims and Helen Sims. She graduated from Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, Alabama. Like many performers, she started singing in church as a child and was a member of the choir in both high school and college.

The most powerful and inspirational motivational force in my life has always been my wonderful parents. They encouraged, nurtured and supported me in my life long love for music. I will be eternally grateful to them and for them. Sadly, they are no longer with us, dad died in 1996, mom died in 2020.

There were three major performers that influenced Ethel’s singing career as a teenager. Number one on the list was the incredible Nancy Wilson, Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis as close seconds. Over the years other influences were added to the list and include Carmen McRae, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Natalie Cole, Shirley Horn, Gloria Lynn, Ernestine Anderson, Mary Stallings, Della Reese, Marlena Shaw, Betty Carter, Esther Phillips, B.B. King, Joe Williams, Luther Vandross, Victor Fields, Johnny Hartman, Mel Carter, Lou Rawls, Bobby Blue Bland and Will Downing.

Ethel’s History

Ethel started singing professionally with keyboard player J.R. Frederick from West Springfield, MA. J.R. asked her to work with him after hearing her at a West Springfield fund raiser talent show. They worked together in Chicopee, MA at the former Angelos restaurant. Ethel is grateful for her earliest singing opportunities with the Eric Bascom Quintet and Richie Mitnick & Rhapsody, formally the Sounds of Music Singers. Working with them was instrumental in helping to give me the experience I needed to become a better entertainer.

As time evolved, Ethel felt the need to take a more creative role in her singing career and decided to branch out on her own and formed the Ethel Lee Ensemble. Forming her own group gave her the freedom to do just that. She was fortunate to find incredible musicians who were open to her ideas and choice of music.

Over the years, Ethel has performed for various public as well as private functions, including but not limited to:

The long standing, featured Sunday band for the summer concert series at Unos Chicago Grill on Hall of Fame Avenue, Springfield, MA (22 years as of 2021). West Springfield Park and Recreation summer concert series, West Springfield, MA (over 20 years). Pazzo’s Restaurant formally known as Carmella’s, 350 Grill both Springfield, MA, Acqua Oyster Bar & Grill in Vernon, CT, Greenvale Vineyards, Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Sardella’s Italian Restaurant, Newport, Rhode Island, Union Station, Northampton, MA and a host of other locations both in and around the New England area.

Ethel also had the pleasure of performing for former District Attorney William Bennett’s annual Law Day fund raisers during his tenure. The public service award ceremony at the Westin Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston, MA in 2000 for former Senator Edward Brooks. She also performed at numerous fund raisers for State Representative Benjamin Swan. In addition, Ethel and her trio performed at a fund-raising event for campaigning Governor Deval Patrick, and was one of the performing bands for Governor Patrick’s inaugural ball at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield, MA in January, 2007.

Ethel had her first taste of acting in West Springfield, MA at the Majestic Theater’s 2003 musical production of “Blues in the Night.” She played “The Lady from the Road”. The play revealed the story of three women who had all been wronged by the same man at different times of their lives. Due to popular demand the play was held over for several additional weeks.

A Woman of Distinction honor was given to Ethel in 2003 by the Pioneer Valley Girl Scouts for lifting people’s spirits. She was one of five women honored in various categories.

Ethel retired from the West Springfield police force in 2003 after serving 28 years. She was the first African American and the first female to be hired on the force as a police officer. She remained the only female for 11 years before a second female was finally hired.

In 2014 Ethel was persuaded to enter the Ms. Senior Massachusetts contest, which she won. She represented the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the national pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey in October and was the 4th runner up out of 42 competing states.

When Dave Sporny, leader of the Amherst Jazz Orchestra (AJO) asked Ethel to be their vocalist in 2016, she felt honored, excited and blessed for the opportunity to work with this amazing orchestra! Dreams really do come true; I am living my dream in the best possible way says Ethel!

Ethel is thankful for all of her singing opportunities with every musician that she has worked with.

In addition, other respected and talented musicians that have hired her to work with them are included in the following list:
Billy Arnold- drummer
Jason Arnold – drummer
Tido Holtkamp – drummer
Rick Marshall – drummer
Rick Mateo – drummer
Greg Caputo – drummer
Eric Bascom – guitar
J.R. Frederick – keyboard
Kent Hewitt – keyboard
Chris Casey – keyboard
Richie Mitnick – keyboard
Matthew Quinn – keyboard (deceased)
Mike Renzi – composer, musical director, arranger and pianist
Steve Moser – keyboard
Ralph Whittle – keyboard
Ed Brainerd – trumpet
Mark Barowsky – saxophone
George David – saxophone
Genevieve Rose – bass
Dick Lupino – bass
Steve Bulmer – bass
Dave Sporny – Leader of Amherst Jazz Orchestra

I feel truly honored to be associated with the circle of incredibly talented and professional musicians that I have the pleasure of working with! A world of thanks to every one of you!!

Ethel feels especially blessed to have a wonderful and supportive husband Wayman, son Darrell, daughter Adriane, daughter-in-law Finessa, adored and treasured grandchildren, Anthony, Avery (died 2020) Xavier, and Avery, and sister and friend Annie Mitchell (died 2016).

My fans are beyond amazing and mean so much to me! I always say they are simple the BEST of the best! That statement is no exaggeration, the fact that a table of two, Kurt and Ellen and another table of approximately 10, John and friends chose to stay at Unos, on July 18th 2021 in the rain with their umbrellas when it started raining, is almost unbelievable yet proves my point!! Fans don’t come any better than this!!!