Maestro César Leal currently serves as Director of Orchestral Activities at the Sunderman Conservatory in Gettysburg College, where he is also a professor of musicology. A Colombian-born artist and researcher, Leal’s scholarly and creative activities often intersect across a diverse array of interests, including music and culture during fin-de-siècle Paris, Franco-American artistic interactions, soundscapes, Jewish patronage and modernism, Latin American cultural identities in the U.S., and race, class, gender relations in music.
As a conductor, Leal has led professional ensembles across the U.S., Panama, Colombia, France, Bulgaria, and Ukraine. The program for his debut with the Panama National Symphony Orchestra in July 2014 featured works from the fin-de-siècle(1880-1913) that bridged European and Latin American musical traditions. He traveled to Panama during the summer of 2019 to serve as director of the Alfredo de Saint-Malo International Music Festival. His program included Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique and the national premiere of Gavilan’s Guaguancó. Maestro Leal is also an adjudicator and international clinician. He has taught conducting masterclasses across the U. S., Austria, and France. A supporter of young artists, Leal has conducted the ILMEA district 7 and collaborated with organizations such as the Midwest Young Artists Program, Loudoun Youth Symphony, and New Jersey Youth Symphony.
Leal’s work is frequently interdisciplinary and collaborative. He is the founder and director of The Ensemble of Variable Geometry, a music performance/research organization that has featured projects, such as a full-staged ballet production of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Debussy’s Afternoon of a Faun, and Chopin’s Les Syplhides (in collaboration with Lexington Ballet), Carreño’s Golpe en el Diafragma, Berio’s O king, and Mahler’s Symphony 4. Other interdisciplinary projects have included Guncotton, a collaboration with visual artist Greg Pond, choreographer Banning Bouldin, and soprano Jessica Usherwood that received the 2018 ArtPrize award.
While pursuing his musicologist career, Leal has presented scholarly papers in the U.S., Canada, Greece, Japan, Italy, France, England, Peru, Colombia, and Switzerland. In 2018, Leal was invited by Musikproduktion Hoeflich to join the project Repertoire Explorer Series, for which he produces introductory essays for new editions of works by Parisian composers of fin-de-siècle Paris such as Camille Saint-Saëns, Gabriel Pierné, and Camille Chevillard. His scholarly contributions include “Écouter le Scandale et la Transgression: Les Modèles Révisionnistes de l’Histriographie Musicale Basés sur l’Étude Du Paysage Sonore” (Nîmes: Lucie Éditions, 2015), and “Sponsoring and Constructing Modernism: Jewish Patronage, Entrepreneurs, and Cultural Mediation in Paris during Fin-de-siècle” (forthcoming—Ad Parnasum). Currently, Leal is co-editing a collection of essays entitled “America in the French Imaginary” with musicologist Diana Hallman.
Leal holds a Ph.D. in Musicology from the University of Kentucky, M.M. in instrumental conducting from Florida International University, and a B.M. in Music Performance from Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá. Before his tenure as Director of Orchestral Activities in Gettysburg, Leal served as artistic director and conductor of the Sewanee Symphony Orchestra at the University of the South in Sewanee, TN, where he also served as a member of both the faculty and the artistic advisory committee of the internationally recognized Sewanee Summer Music Festival.