American vocal coach Sylvia Olden Lee, born in Meridian, Mississippi on 29 June 1917, was one of the foremost voice teachers of her time. Olden Lee was the daughter of opera singer Sylvia Alice Ward. In 1938, Olden Lee graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. In 1944, she married the violinist and conductor Everett Lee.
Over her life, she held many teaching posts, including at Columbia University, and among her students were Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle. While she spent one year as voice teacher at New York Metropolitan Opera, she made history, not only as the first African-American to be employed by the Met, but also when she fought for contralto Marian Anderson's right to perform. In 1955, Anderson became the first African-American female singer to perform on an opera stage.
Sylvia Olden Lee died of cancer on 10 April 2004, aged eighty-six.