Alexander Leonardi on the Latest Episode of WHYY's "On Stage at Curtis"
The prize-winning organist discusses his musical path and challenges faced as a musician with autism
“I want to lay the foundation of myself as the artist I want to be. I want to spend these three years leading up to [graduation] to develop my own blend, my approach to organ, my approach to classical music. I want to start showing the world, now not just in the oven, but out in public—this is who I am, this is what I want to do, I hope you enjoy it.” —Alexander Leonardi
Season 18 of WHYY’s acclaimed On Stage at Curtis series continues with a portrait of third-year Curtis organ student, Alexander Leonardi. The prize-winning musician from Lindenhurst, New York entered Curtis in 2020 and studies organ with Alan Morrison, Haas Charitable Trust Chair in Organ Studies, as the Dr. Mi-Why Lee Fellow. In addition to his studies here at the school, Mr. Leonardi serves as the Michael Stairs Organ Scholar at the Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
Originally, Mr. Leonardi had his eyes locked on a career in robotic engineering, but his music teacher suggested he apply for Juilliard’s Pre-College Division program. After being accepted as an organ student, his trajectory towards becoming a professional musician was solidified. In this episode, he discusses his love for performing, his struggles as a child with the rigors of daily practice routines, and his diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that led to subsequent therapeutic sessions helping him to adapt to social environments, embrace his passions, and navigate life.
Click HERE to watch the On Stage at Curtis episode, or click the video below.
Performances in the episode include Ludwig van Beethoven’s Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 5, No. 2, with Mr. Leonardi at the piano, joined by cellist Hun Choi (’23); and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto in A major, BWV 1055R. He plays the harpsichord alongside Cameron Slaton (oboe d’amore), violinists Lingyu Dong and Zhenyi Jian, violist Yizilin Liang, cellist Romain-Olivier Gray, and double bassist Tobias Vigneau.
After he graduates from Curtis, Mr. Leonardi plans to continue his studies with a master’s degree in organ, accompanying, or conducting. A decade on, he hopes to have a successful career as an organist on the international stage, become a member of a chamber ensemble, and teach in academia, but he does not want to limit his creativity to classical music alone, and looks forward to expanding his palate to jazz and electronic music as well.
Photos of Alexander Leonardi courtesy of Nichole MCH Photography. Performance image of Mr. Leonardi with violist Jack Kessler (’23), courtesy of Micah Gleason Photography.