Canberra's musical world will soon lose one of its major forces. Leonard Weiss, conductor and carillonist, has accepted an invitation to study a Master of Music, Conducting, at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. He will be studying under the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's artistic director, Marin Alsop.
Weiss will begin his studies in August and will be based in Baltimore for most of the next two years.
He applied in November last year and was one of 31 candidates in the first round after pre-screening video applications.
He made it to the second round where 17 people were competing for five places.
"Having arrived in the country some 24 hours before the second-round callback ... I was definitely focused on doing my absolute best in the limited time available," he says.
The audition - which he describes as a "whirlwind" - saw him conduct the institute's conductors' orchestra in excerpts from Beethoven's Symphony no. 5, Mahler's Symphony no. 4 and Beethoven's Leonora Overture no. 3.
Weiss had covered many of the technical challenges of the Beethoven symphony with Johannes Fritzsch and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra at the 2018 Australian Conducting Academy - so, he says, "I could walk in very confidently for those iconic challenging opening bars".
He was the only Australian among the top five, who also include two Americans and a Brazilian.
The 26-year-old musician says this is "a tremendously exciting opportunity" for him and describes Alsop - a protege of Leonard Bernstein with an international career - as "one of the most highly regarded conductors, and conducting teachers, in the world".
He says: "She provides unparalleled access to one of the finest orchestras in the country, facilitating conducting masterclasses, rehearsals and development opportunities."
Weiss has lived in Canberra for more than 20 years. He began playing the harp at the age of nine and composed and conducted a work while a year 9 student at Canberra Grammar School.
He wrote a piece for the carillon in 2011 and as part of his bachelor of music studies at the ANU began learning the instrument in 2013, the year he graduated.
Since then, he has become one of the carillon's regular performers and will be among those playing in May the 4th Be With You, a Star Wars family concert at the National Carillon on Saturday, May 4 at 12.30pm. For bookings search "May the 4th" in Canberra on eventbrite.com.au.
He has conducted more than 200 works over the past several years, including some Australian premieres, and has taken a particular interest in championing Australian music.
Weiss has been involved with many Canberra musical ensembles and organisations as conductor and music director, including the Canberra Youth Orchestra, the National Capital Orchestra, Musica de Camera and the Gay and Lesbian Qwire, and he was one of the founders of the Canberra Sinfonia.
"The music organisations I am fortunate to work with are very excited to see me take this next step in my career, even though it means largely transitioning away from my leadership roles here over the next few months," he says.
"I hope to strengthen my connection with many of Australia's excellent professional orchestras interstate and I plan to return to Australia around December-January and mid-May to July/August 2020, hopefully aligning with a couple of performances with the National Capital Orchestra and the Canberra Sinfonia."
But he still has some more concerts coming up before he goes. After Sunday, the next one is on Sunday May 19 at 5pm. Gloria! will see him working with the ANU Choral Society as it performs works Vivaldi and Purcell at St Peter's Lutheran Church, 6 Boolee Street, Reid. trybooking.com/book/event?eid=489818.