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November 28, 2022

 Randy Leon


Back in 2016, the D’Addario Foundation team met a young student living in the Bronx named Randy Leon. He was a cellist at a program we support in his neighborhood and had a mesmerizing smile and attitude. Randy subsequently became the subject of our intro video.

Today Randy writes:

“In short, I am still playing the cello and on occasion still jamming out to Rock and Roll with my guitar. After that beautiful video with D'Addario, I went on to complete my undergraduate degree at Fredonia State University. During my time at Fredonia, I double majored in Music Education and Music Performance where I found quite a lot of success in teaching and performing, including being principal cello of the symphony orchestra. Shortly after graduation, I earned my New York teaching license where I can teach Pre K - 12 grade music at any public school, charter school, private school, etc. Although I will certainly go the public school route.

However, rather than going right into teaching full-time, I still felt a bit incomplete as a musician. As happy as I was with being a well rounded and trained music teacher, I also wanted to be a great performer. To be honest with you, during my student teaching semester I began to meet and learn from many great teachers in both New York State and New York City. The trend that I found was that you could really find some remarkable teachers, but usually, their musical skill on their instruments are lacking. The performing life for many public teachers sort of takes a back seat, and that is totally fine if they find that the performing life is not for them! But I realized that I want my performing life to be just as exciting as my teaching life. So soon after graduating from undergrad, I earned a scholarship and fellowship position at Montclair State University to do my Master's in Cello Performance. 

I just started my second year here and I have been involved with so many great opportunities, as well as learning new passions I never thought I had before. For example, I have been extremely focused on baroque and medieval performance for the past 2 years. I've been playing the viola da gamba, and since I have a guitar background, I also picked up theorbo lessons where I hope I can double as a cellist and theorbo player in the near future. In terms of my modern cello playing I've been performing a lot, and have gotten opportunities to play with great musicians/ensembles like the Kronos String Quartet, Charles Yang, Rhiannon, Rahzel, Harlem Quartet, Voces 8, and many more. I am prioritizing new music and have been incorporating jazz into my recital. Prioritizing music written by living composers of diverse backgrounds has been a major passion for me.

As of recently, I earned the co-manager position of the New York Youth Symphony where I get to continue my work with music for inner city students. I am still working with Orchestrating Dreams (formally known as Washington Heights Inwood Music Project), and even began teaching at other El Sistema inspired music programs in New Jersey where I can continue to foster and introduce music to students who otherwise wouldn't have the funds, resources or proper exposure to learn music. A sort of full circle moment for me!

Lastly, I just wanted to say that I still think about D'Addario and the experience I had with putting on that foundation's video fondly. My parents bring that experience up all of the time and we all are still so grateful. Everyone at D'Addario was so generous and so kind to me and my family, and we thank you so much for that. Thank you for reaching out and I am sorry I rambled a bit here, but I was excited to share the journey you all helped me find.”



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