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Meet Melanie Leonard

We’ve been waiting two years to have Melanie Leonard come to conduct the SSO….well, we should say, come to conduct our SSO!  Melanie is the Music Director of our friends the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra (also the SSO!), and has been on the podium for many of Canada’s orchestras.

Recently, she took time out of her busy schedule to answer some of our burning questions!

What was your inspiration to become a conductor?

I was always very artistic and practiced several different art forms before choosing music. I did ballet when I was young, then ballroom dancing competition. In Cegep, I studied theatre and visual arts. All this time, I was also learning violin and came to realize that I wanted to devote myself to music. As I was reflecting on what made me feel alive and happy, I understood that besides the inspiring sharing process that happens during a performance, I also thrived on working with a big team, being in a leadership role, having ideas and realizing them, contributing to a community. So, I started my journey into conducting and never looked back. I am lucky to live my passion everyday. I work hard, but it does not feel like work to me – more like play hard, but as it pertains to my profession.

What’s your latest love on spotify?

I listen to so many different genres of music… it’s hard to answer that…. Lately, I have been rediscovering the songs of Québec singer and songwriter Richard Desjardins – I find him to be such an inspiring poet of our times.

What’s your latest binge on Netflix?

I don’t watch a lot of Netflix…When I do, I  generally like to watch movies and documentaries. I am more of a Playstation person… So, I don’t binge watch series, but I will occasionally binge play a video game… I finished Bioshock 2 just before Christmas!

You’re here for our 80s show – who’s your favourite 80s band/singer?

It’s late 70s early 80s, but I’ll go with Blondie. I also like Metallica

What is it about classical music that makes audiences come back time and time again?

I think we all want to feel connected and alive. We talk a lot about the importance of living in the present moment. Music is an art that unfolds one present moment at a time and it allows us to be emotionally connected to it and to ourselves in that very instant. Surrendering to music is a welcomed pause to how busy we tend to be. We have not been as virtually connected as we are, but it also makes us disconnected at times. Classical music brings us back to what I believe is essential in our lives – being present.

What has been your favourite performance you’ve ever seen live (or performed in!)?

Conducting George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with Herbie Hancock and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra is definitely a special moment that I will never forget. As for my favourite concert experience as an audience member, I have to say that the Montreal Symphony Orchestra performing Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder was mind blowing!

You lived in Calgary as resident conductor there, did you end up falling in love with the Canadian prairies?

I did! The landscape is of course beautiful… very different from my home province of Québec. But above all, I feel richer from the human experience that it brought me. I was welcomed with such warmth in Calgary. Knowing my country geographically is one thing, but to have the chance to experience it humanly is a meaningful experience for me.

If you had one piece of advice for young women in music, what would it be?

Dare and do it! But it is a piece of advice I’d give anyone who is passionate about something. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way of things. But, I would say that if you have the opportunity to pursue your passion, don’t deny yourself of who you are and who you are becoming though living your dream.

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