Worldly, multi-lingual and multi-talented Eduardo Leandro is spurred by his many passions — music and aviation chief among them.
This 52-year-old Brazilian-born musician speaks five languages fluently: Portuguese, Spanish, French, English and Dutch — and three more (including Korean) conversationally. He has homes in New York City and at an environmentally aware “green” community outside of Gettysburg, Pa. He is regularly found at concert, conference and lecture halls throughout Europe, Asia, Latin America, Canada and the United States as a conductor and percussionist.
Getting from point “A” to point “B,” especially in North America, is usually done with ease — a la James Bond — as he pilots his own single engine, four-seat Mooney whenever practicable.
And as fate would have it, Leandro will soon return to where his serious conducting studies began: Bridgeport.
Come October, Leandro, as principal guest conductor, will open the Greater Bridgeport Symphony’s 78th season.
It was announced recently that Leandro will eke out time from his already packed schedule to conduct all five concerts next season as the orchestra continues its search for a permanent music director (following the departure of Eric Jacobsen after nine seasons).
Maestro and Student
In 2008. Leandro began studies with the late Gustav Meier, who for more than four decades led the Bridgeport orchestra. Considered among the greatest teachers of conducting in the world, Meier had led some of the most prestigious conducting programs in the U.S., including at Yale University, the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins’ Peabody conservatory.
While enjoying a very successful career as a percussionist and educator, Leandro decided that he wanted to expand his interests to conducting.
“I came to Gustav in Bridgeport. He wasn’t taking many private students at that stage of his career,” recalled Leandro. But after assessing Leandro’s skills, the maestro encouraged him to continue studies.
His first full session was in Meier’s hotel room at the now defunct Holiday Inn on Main Street during a GBS concert week. (Meier commuted to Bridgeport from his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan.) “And sometimes, too, we would meet during his time at Peabody in Baltimore.”
“I’m very picky about my teachers,” he said, laughing. “They need to be good people as well as good musicians. Gustav and I were a good fit. For Gustav, it was all about the music” conveying the composers’ intentions.
Orchestra fans might recall that Leandro is not a stranger to the GBS stage. He was a guest conductor for the November 2021 concert, which featured Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
Building Bridges, Taking Flight
“Building Bridges” is the theme of next season, referring to the need to create connections among and between the many diverse communities that constitute this part of Fairfield County, as well as exploring connections between traditional orchestral gems and contemporary works, he said.
In many cultures, orchestras ”are considered as a community center, a place where you can feel welcome, a place for everyone who wants to hear great music without feeling intimidated,” Leandro said in a recent chat from his Pennsylvania home (which he had shared with his late wife).
A passion for flying was sparked at a very young age, he said. Born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Leandro and family then lived near a commuter airport, which he would frequently visit with his father to watch airplanes come and go.
The son of professional musicians, he tried his hand at piano and flute before gravitating at age 14 to the drums, he said. He would later go on to study at Sao Paulo University, Rotterdam Conservatory in the Netherlands and at Yale.
Among his extensive list of current positions is associate music professor at Stony Brook University in New York and teaching percussion at the University of Montreal in Canada, conductor of the New York New Music Ensemble and percussionist with the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society.
Conducting and performing, he said, gives him a “sense of balance.” He is able to “create music directly by performing” and create music in a community of musicians by conducting.
Leandro said he envisions his next turn on the GBS podium to be exciting and fun for him, the orchestra and the audience. Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story” is on the program along with a few special features; Leandro will do double duty, also performing on the marimba.
“It will be a high-energy concert,” he said. “Much like a festival.”
2023-24 Season Subscriptions
Subscriptions are now available for the 2023-2024 season, with concerts at Bridgeport’s Klein Memorial Auditorium October 14, November 11, December 16, March 16 and April 13.
According to Phyllis Rhodes Cortese, the GBS’s new executive director, subscription prices are the same as last season: all five concerts for $255, $215, $175, $135 or $85. For additional information, visit Tickets & Subscriptions.