Scholar Spotlight: Leonard Weiss’ Journey in the World of Conducting

Leonard Weiss, a 2020 recipient of the American Australian Association Arts Grant, has had an exhilarating few months since relocating to Melbourne as the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s (MSO) Assistant Conductor. His role has already seen him conducting a variety of programs and workshops, including a two-hour program of contemporary chamber music at the invitation of MSO musicians. He has also been involved in regional workshops and school concerts, making a significant impact on the local community.

In his initial months at MSO, Leonard has had the opportunity to step in for gala concert rehearsals, composition readings, and balance calls under the guidance of Chief Conductor Jaime Martín and Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Ben Northey. Leonard’s busy schedule continues with his upcoming conducting of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 as part of the popular “Ears Wide Open” series, followed by the world premiere orchestration of Katy Abbott’s Hidden Voices II.

In addition to his role at MSO, Leonard was recently awarded a Churchill Medallion, formally marking the completion of his Churchill Fellowship. His Fellowship Report provides detailed insights into his conducting development, including experiences at the Tanglewood Conducting Seminar with Andris Nelsons, the Salzburg Festival at the invitation of musicians from the Vienna Philharmonic, and the National Orchestral Institute + Festival with Marin Alsop. Leonard also had the privilege of observing rehearsals with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Simone Young and the Metropolitan Opera with Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Other highlights over the past few months have included a very fond return to the Auckland Philharmonia to conduct their sold-out Celebrate Christmas concerts, and to National Opera to conduct Suor Angelica as part of the Puccini centenary celebrations. That marked my third conducting engagement with National Opera, after Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore and Mozart’s Così fan tutte in the previous two years; we are currently planning for my return in 2025.

Prior to a busy start to the year, late 2023 included some incredible opportunities working as assistant conductor for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra with Principal Guest Conductor Xian Zhang, and assisting the Queensland Symphony Orchestra with Music Director Umberto Clerici. In addition to conducting the Adelaide, Tasmanian and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras as part of the Australian Conducting Academy, I was fortunate to conduct the Sydney Youth Orchestras in the Rite of Spring and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in the Sydney Opera House, and conduct a three-week run of West Side Story.

Leonard, Outside Government House after receiving the Churchill Medallion