Choral music educator Leach named 2009-10 Penn State laureate

May 15, 2009

University Park, Pa. — Penn State's new laureate, a tenor vocalist, pianist and music educator, plans to engage audiences and help them connect to music as part of his yearlong duties to raise awareness of the arts and enrich the public's cultural experience.   

Anthony T. Leach, associate professor of music and music education in Penn State's College of Arts and Architecture, has been named the University's second Penn State laureate. He succeeds the inaugural laureate, Kim Cook, professor of music in cello.

The Penn State laureate is a full-time University faculty member in the humanities or fine arts who is assigned half-time for one academic year to bring an enhanced level of social, cultural, artistic and human perspective and awareness to a broad array of audiences. The laureate will be a highly visible representative of Penn State who will appear regularly at events University-wide and throughout the Commonwealth at community and statewide events.

"As Penn State laureate, I would like to emphasize the transformative nature of choral music," said Leach. "Rather than simply talking, I'm more interested in providing an encounter for my audiences that will enable them to connect positively with me through that experience. I also look forward to involving Penn State choirs and musicians in some laureate events."

Leach has been a member of the School of Music faculty since 1994, following 14 years as a public school music teacher in Maryland, New York City and Pennsylvania, where he instructed students ranging from elementary through high school.  Leach is conductor of Penn State's University Choir, Penn State's oldest mixed-voice choir of about 80 select undergraduate and graduate students. He also is founding musical director and conductor of Essence of Joy, a mixed-voice Penn State choir organized in 1991 while he was completing his doctoral degree at Penn State. Essence of Joy, composed of 50 undergraduate and graduate students from many colleges at University Park, travels extensively throughout Pennsylvania, the United States and the world performing African and African-American traditional and contemporary sacred and secular music.

Essence of Joy has been invited to perform at three American Choral Directors Association national conventions and a Music Educators National Conference National Convention, and has recorded five CDs. In 1999 Leach established Essence 2, a State College, Pa.-based multigenerational community choir, and founded the Essence of Joy Alumni Singers in 2005, both of which he directs. Outside the University, Leach serves as minister of music/organist at the New Bethel Baptist Church in his native Washington, D.C., where he administers a staff of four musicians and seven choirs.

Among many achievements, Leach served as a co-conductor in 2004 of the World Youth Choir sponsored by the International Federation of Choral Musicians. During the 2006-2007 academic year, Leach was on sabbatical leave from Penn State. He presented lectures and teacher education workshops and served as guest conductor for events in Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Taiwan, Manila (Philippines) and Japan. In 2007 he received the Penn State President's Award for Engagement with Students. In 2008 he expanded a traditional Essence of Joy winter concert titled the Celebration of African-American Spirituals, and renamed it the African-American Music Festival to incorporate other School of Music faculty and students.
Leach will begin serving as laureate in early July, immediately following Essence of Joy's performing tour of Pacific Rim countries and Essence of Joy Alumni Singers' performing tour of France and Luxembourg.

Leach was selected by President Graham B. Spanier following a recommendation by the Penn State laureate review committee. The committee was chaired by Blannie Bowen, vice provost for academic affairs, and included Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts; Sue Haug, director of the School of Music in the College of Arts and Architecture; John J. Romano, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses; Sherry Roush, associate director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, and associate professor of Italian in the College of the Liberal Arts; and Anne Riley, a member of the Board of Trustees.

  • The 2009-2010 Penn State Laureate is Anthony T. Leach. For a short video of a song arranged by Leach and performed by Essence of Joy, click on the image above.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated November 18, 2010