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Lesley Leighton, Artistic Director
Whether conducting the 100 voices of Los Robles Master Chorale, the 115 voices of Los Angeles Master Chorale, or the 80 voices of the New West Symphony Chorus, Lesley Leighton's primary mission remains the same: to nurture California's rich choral music tradition. A native of Los Angeles, Leighton studied with Paul Salamunovich at Loyola Marymount University, where she earned her BA in choral conducting. She later obtained her MM in vocal performance and DMA in choral music from the University of Southern California.
Leighton was named to the newly-created post of Associate Conductor of Los Angeles Master Chorale in July 2011, following a year as Assistant Conductor. In January 2011, she made her Disney Hall conducting debut with LA Master Chorale. Theodore Bell of CultureSpotLA wrote that she "soared in her debut as she skillfully guided Britten's Hymn to St. Cecilia with her sensitive direction.... The result was exquisite as she and the singers connected to bring Britten's iconic music to life with a unique personality. The Chorale responded to her every gesture; the phrases were controlled and nuanced to a degree of fine perfection." Leighton again conducted the LA Master Chorale in fall 2011 and at the Andes to the Sea concert in May 2012.
During recent seasons at the Hollywood Bowl, Leighton has co-conducted the Los Angeles Master Chorale with Grant Gershon and Gustavo Dudamel, and prepared LA Master Chorale for the LA Philharmonic's performances of Bernstein's Candide and Chichester Psalms, and the Mozart Requiem with Bramwell Tovey, Puccini's Turandot with Dudamel, Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 and Choral Fantasy, Carmina Burana, and A Midsummer Night's Dream with Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, and Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with Leonard Slatkin, as well as for Esa-Pekka Salonen and the LA Philharmonic on Magnus Lindberg's Graffiti at Disney Hall. As a guest conductor, Leighton has recently conducted the Fauré Requiem, Vaughan Williams's Serenade to Music, the Mozart Requiem, and Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors.
Leighton was named Artistic Director of Los Robles Master Chorale in 2008 and under her leadership the 35-year-old organization has expanded its vision, personnel, and audience base, taking part in the LA Phil's The Mahler Project, and performing in A Concert for America at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in commemoration of the former president's centennial birthday. Leighton is also music director of the New West Symphony Chorus, which premiered with the orchestra in May 2011 with performances of Orff's Carmina Burana. NWS Chorus combined with Los Robles Master Chorale will present Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in May 2013 under newly appointed NWS Artistic Director Marcelo Lehninger. Leighton will also prepare a small group from LRMC to appear with the New West Symphony in a special American tribute concert in January 2013. She will conduct on the opening and closing concerts for Los Angeles Master Chorale at Disney Concert Hall and prepare the chorale on John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary for the upcoming 2013 European tour with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. She will also present seven concerts with Los Robles Master Chorale as part of its regular season.
As a choral conductor, Leighton embraces a broad range of music, from the Renaissance to the Romantic Era, although she is particularly dedicated to twentieth and twenty-first century compositions. A long-time advocate of music education, she inaugurated Los Robles Master Chorale's annual High School Choral Festival, High School Choral Leadership Workshop and has established LRMC's Young Artist Choral Composers Competition. She has been a guest clinician with choirs at Brandeis Institute, Padre Serra Catholic Church, and for several LAUSD choral invitationals, and has appeared as a guest speaker/clinician for Screen Actors Guild and Vox Femina. During the 2012-13 season, Leighton will be Choral Artist in Residence at the Marlborough School in Los Angeles; appear as guest conductor at Santa Clara Chorale; and judge the high school voices for both the Southern California Vocal Association's Honor Choir and the New West Symphony Young Vocal Artists Competition.
Leighton turned to conducting after a two decade career as a singer, during which she performed as a member of the Los Angeles Master Chorale with many of the world's most eminent conductors, including Pierre Boulez, Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Gustavo Dudamel, Bramwell Tovey, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos and Leonard Slatkin, and sang principal roles with New York City Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Köln Opera, Paris Opera and Glyndebourne.
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