Lee Bracegirdle held positions as principal French horn in orchestras on 3 continents spanning more than 3 decades. His career as a composer began in 1998 as winner of the Kodaly Composers' Competition in Chicago, followed by numerous commissions and requests for new works from his orchestral colleagues. As a composer he is represented by the Australian Music Centre and since 2008 his compositions have been published by C.F. Peters. As a conductor he trained at Salzburg's Mozarteum and he now guest conducts in Australia and Latin America. From 2017-2020 he was Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Woollahra Philharmonic Orchestra and in 2020 he was named Honorary Musical Director of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Oriente in Santiago, Cuba.
Bracegirdle began musical training in his native Philadelphia, where he studied piano, organ, and various wind instruments, choosing the French Horn at age 14. He began tertiary music studies at the Philadelphia Musical Academy (1970–1971) specialising in French horn and organ. From 1971–76 he studied French horn at the Juilliard School with James Chambers, John Cerminaro and Ranier de Intinis, earning a BM and MM, and also privately with Carmine Caruso and Roy Stevens. Among his lecturers at Juilliard who influenced his compositional style were the composers Pierre Boulez, Jacob Druckman, Vincent Persichetti, and Robert Starer.
Concurrent with his studies he led a multi-faceted freelance career, performing and recording as principal horn with the New York City Symphony Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonia, and with many prominent jazz musicians, including Clark Terry, Ornette Coleman, Stanley Clark, Earl Gardner and Teo Macero.
In 1976–77 he held the positions of Co-Principal Horn with the Orquesta Filarmónica de la UNAM (México) and Principal Horn with the Chamber Orchestra of México City. In the summer of 1977 he joined the International Youth Orchestra in Bayreuth, Germany and in the same month became principal horn with the Hof Symphony Orchestra. During his tenure there he co-founded Germany’s premier brass quintet Rekkenze Brass. In 1980 he was appointed Associate Principal Horn with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, where he served until his retirement in 2012. He has made numerous recordings for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation as a soloist, chamber musician and principal horn, and in 1981 together with his SSO colleagues he founded the Australian Brass Quintet.
He has edited French horn études for the I.M.C. in New York and published his own studies and brass chamber music through 3-C Musikverlag in Bochum, Germany. He has given master classes at the Juilliard School, Salzburg Mozarteum, Curtis Institute, University of Illinois, the Chopin University of Music in Warsaw, the Conservatorio Esteban Salas in Santiago, Cuba, and the Conservatorium of Matanzas, Cuba.
He studied conducting with Michael Gielen at the Salzburg Mozarteum from 1990–1992, and in 1991 took part in master classes with Sergiu Celibidache in Mainz. Since 1996 he has been Musical Director and Composer-in-Residence of the Australian Chamber Ballet, and he appears frequently as guest conductor with many Sydney-based ensembles. In 2014 he was the first Australian to conduct in Cuba, and by including one of his own compositions became the first contemporary Australian composer to be performed there. He returns to Cuba regularly as guest conductor of the orchestras of Santiago, Camagüey, Holguín, Matanzas and Santa Clara.
The Sydney Symphony Orchestra have performed the premieres of his compositions Variations for Orchestra, Ammersee-Lieder, Euphonium Concerto and Legends of the Old Castle (solo harp and wind orchestra). Legends and Threnos (French horn and wind orchestra) were commissioned by the American Wind Symphony. His Violin Concerto was premiered in 2015 with the SSO concertmaster Michael Dauth as soloist. All of these works are published by C. F. Peters.
Works written at the request of his colleagues have been Euphonium Concerto (2007), Passacaglia and Gigues (2011, double bass and chamber orchestra), Violin Concerto (2012), Shoalhaven-Lieder (2017, tenor and orchestra), Triptych (2018, saxophone and orchestra), and Clarinet Concerto (2021).
He has been Composer-in-Residence in the Brahmshaus in Baden-Baden and at Bundanon.