SWON: How did you get into music and when did you realise you wanted to be a composer?
LEO: My musical journey began from a dip out of the hat! My primary school offered flute and clarinet lessons and as they were oversubscribed, a lucky dip would decide the musical fate of the students. Thankfully, I was one of the few to get flute lessons. I immersed myself in the Lewisham Schools’ Music Service, and, in particular, the Concert Band. Though I diligently worked hard at the flute it didn’t quite chime with me. I really wanted to play the oboe, but the only double reed lessons available at the time was bassoon, so I had a taster lesson and fell in love with this huge bundle of sticks, despite that fact that it was taller than me at the time!
I had begun composing and arranging music almost as soon as I started playing. I used to get my friends together and we would play through my pieces for wind quartets and quintets. Gradually I became more ambitious and confident, eventually writing a piece for the Lewisham School’s Concert Band. I remember the rehearsal vividly. It was a life-changing moment hearing my music played by such a large group of people. It was in this moment that I decided that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.
SWON: How did you first become involved with SWON & what has been your connection to the orchestra?
LEO: I first became involved with SWON several years ago. Matthew Hardy (SWON’s current MD) and I had met at a conducting masterclass in Manchester and were both impressed by each other’s flapping! Matt asked if I might be able to come in to take a woodwind sectional rehearsal and I’ve continued to do this ever since, as well as taking rehearsals in Matt’s stead when he has been away. Over the last three years I’ve got to know the band pretty well and seen it grow in size and ambition. It’s been a pleasure!