From Norwood High School to the Pops!
By Michele Taranto
Kyle Leonard has performed many times in front of people. His largest audience was 1,000 people for a play, but he couldn’t see them. What a difference playing before your hometown to approximately 4,000 people on the Norwood Common. And add to that, playing with one of the most infamous and talented orchestras in the world; that is a monumental transition!
Eighteen year-old Leonard was the Norwood High School (NHS) student who was honored to play saxophone with the Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops on June 26, in celebration of Norwood’s 150th Anniversary.
The experience began with the idea of a NHS student accompanying the orchestra and a recommendation from Norwood High School Director of Fine Arts, Katherine Carter Mullen. After a video audition, the decision was made. Leonard would take the massive stage on Central Ave.!
It only took one rehearsal in the Boston Symphony Hall building for Leonard, Lockhart, and the entire ensemble to practice his two pieces. With Leonard’s talent, and the experience of the Pops behind him, that is all it took look like a natural on that stage!
“I was very nervous at first; it was the first time I have ever played in front of a giant group of professional musicians,” Leonard said. “Before that, I met with Keith. He was easygoing and professional all at the same time. We went over both pieces I was playing and how we were going to get through them with him and I and the whole orchestra.”
For those who attended the concert, they will likely remember the massive stage. Couple that with the thousands of people watching, one can only imagine what a sight that was for the 2022 NHS graduate. Already a true performer, Leonard took it in stride.
That was the first time I ever experienced something like that, it was unreal,” Leonard said. “I really wasn’t nervous. It was more adrenalin. Because it was nice out, it was a good day to do everything.”
There was something Leonard did not count on that day, the wind. During his performance, his music sheet flew on the ground, and for a few minutes, he played from memory, just as a seasoned professional.
“You learn through all environments,” Leonard said. “It was shock more than anything else. I thought, I guess I will have to do this by memory now. The music was there as a safety and I could always look down.”
While this was Leonard’s largest audience, performing is not new to him. He has been a musician since he was eight years old and can play the saxophone, flute, clarinet, bass, percussion, baritone, and tuba. One guess which instrument he prefers.
“My favorite is the saxophone, 100%; that’s what I started on,” Leonard shared. “Beside starting on it and playing the longest, it looked the coolest to me when I was picking an instrument at nine or ten.”
At NHS, music and physics were his primary interests, and with his talent, it is no surprise he will major in music at college this fall. Leonard will be attending the University of North Texas, which offers one of the best music programs in the country.
“They have a very specific degree I wanted, [multiple woodwind performance],” Leonard said. “The degree I want is usually only offered at graduate levels but they offer it for undergrad here. I am the only one in the program right now. It is one of the toughest music degrees to graduate in; the last person was over five years ago.”
Leonard credits many people that helped him pursue his musical talent. His family first for the support, his band teacher, Steven Conant, Carter Mullen, and his private lesson teacher of five years former Director of Fine Arts, Paul Alberta.
“They helped me get to where I am today,”
There is so much ahead for this young, talented musician. Right now, college, from there, the stage is wide open.
“I hope that later in my career I get to do more with orchestras, or maybe even the Boston Symphony in the future,” Leonard said. “I definitely left a good impression.”