Vocalist, businesswoman, mother and wife . . . Sophie Lee Lowry dons many hats in her everyday life, a balancing act that surprises even her. Born in the suburbs of Chicago from mixed parentage – her mother was Korean and her father was black with roots in Louisiana and Mississippi – Lowry attended The Chicago Academy for the Arts and grew up studying classical piano and later guitar. In 2001, she moved to New Orleans “on a wing and a prayer,” and armed with her mother’s strong work ethic and a passion for food and music, made the city her home.
After only six months, Lowry met her soon-to-be husband John Rodli, a jazz guitarist originally from Wisconsin who plays with several bands in different venues around town. They’ve been together for almost 20 years and have two lovely daughters; 12-year-old Eleanora and Una Mae who will be 10 this July. “I used to joke when they were little, especially because we gave them jazz singer names, that they’re probably going to grow up to be accountants,” says Lowry. “They’ll be the exact opposite of their parents, just to spite us!”
In 2010, Lowry and Chef Daniel Esses opened Three Muses, a popular live music venue on Frenchmen Street featuring local artists, food and cocktails. Attributing her endurance to “mommy adrenaline,” Lee was able to juggle motherhood, entrepreneurship and frequent live performances with surprising ease. “Una Mae was 6 months old and Eleanora was 2 1/2 when I signed the lease for Three Muses. A lot of it is a blur!” admits Lowry. “Their [daughters] whole life has happened in tandem with the business. When I think back on it, I don’t know how in the world I did it.”
When she’s not co-managing her successful business in the Marigny or crooning at the Spotted Cat on Thursday nights, Lowry’s time is largely dedicated to her daughters. Though she has tried to impart her love of music to her girls, Eleanora and Una Mae have set their sights elsewhere. Eleanora is excelling on the Louisiana Regional Gymnastics team and Una Mae is studying art with a friend of Lee’s, local artist and jewelry designer Monica Da Silva. “She gives Una Mae private art classes once a week,” says Lowry. “I think it’s a better than your average art class because she’s learning from a real, living and working artist.”
In hopes of stirring their creativity, Lowry also makes her daughters study music. “I make them take violin and piano lessons, because I am half-Korean and in every Korean household you have to take violin and piano, it’s just written in the doctrine,” jokes Lowry. “They won’t sing in front of me, but when they don’t think I can hear them, I’ll hear them sing, so they’re very musical, but we’ll see.” Who knows? Perhaps her daughters will follow in her and her husband’s footsteps. A mother can only hope!