Leal Named Director of Gettysburg College Symphony Orchestra

The Gettysburg College Symphony Orchestra performs in November 2016 (Photo courtesy of Gettysburg College)

The Gettysburg College Symphony Orchestra performs in November 2016 (Photo courtesy of Gettysburg College)

By Benjamin Pontz, Editor-in-Chief

Dr. César Leal, a Colombian-born musicologist who currently serves as the Director of the Sewanee Symphony Orchestra at the University of the South in Tennessee, will be the next director of the Gettysburg College Symphony Orchestra.

Leal replaces Vimbayi Kaziboni, who left last May after two years at Gettysburg to take a position at the Boston Conservatory. The role of orchestra director has been filled on an interim basis since August by violinist Ari Isaacman-Beck.

Leal will assume an appointment as Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Orchestral Activities beginning in the fall, which is a similar role to the one he has held at Sewanee since 2013. He is expected to teach courses in musicology and world music in addition to his role directing the orchestra, particularly given that Drs. Marta Robertson and Paul Austerlitz, both of whom are musicologists, will be on leave or sabbatical for the fall semester and the full year respectively next year.

At Sewanee, Leal taught a range of courses on topics such as the music of Latin America as well as music at the turn of the 20th century to the beginning of World War I.

In a February 2019 interview with the Sewanee Purple, Leal said that exploring Latin American musical traditions “gives us a glimpse into the importance of immigration in this country, and the extent of the cultural impact other countries have had here, for which we have to be thankful.”

When Leal visited campus in February for his interview, he presented on the French opera “Carmen” by Georges Bizet and probed issues of sexuality and colonialism in addition to the more traditional musicological aspects of the work.

That appealed to Bridget Haines ’21, a violist in the orchestra and music education major in whose class the presentation occurred.

“I’m really excited to have someone who is going to come in and work with us and talk with us about more than just the music we’re rehearsing,” she said. “He had a lot of good energy and experience, and he seemed super excited to come here.”

Leal is fluent in English and Spanish and proficient in French and Italian. His primary instrument is the saxophone, and he also plays the piano.

In a 2016 interview with the Sewanee Mountain Messenger, he described growing up in Bogotá and playing music with members of his extended family for hours.

“There was always copious amounts of food and we would get together and make music for hours and hours,” he said.

He went on to act in television soap operas and children’s shows, dance in an international theatre company, and host a radio show before attending the Javeriana University in Colombia and earning a bachelor’s degree in music performance. Subsequently, he earned a master’s degree in instrumental conducting on a scholarship at Florida International University and a doctoral degree in musicology from the University of Kentucky.

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Author: Benjamin Pontz

Benjamin Pontz '20 served as Editor-in-Chief of The Gettysburgian from 2018 until 2020, Managing News Editor from 2017 until 2018, News Editor in the spring of 2017, and Staff Writer during the fall of 2016. During his tenure, he wrote 232 articles. He led teams that won two first place Keystone Press Awards for ongoing news coverage (once of Bob Garthwait's resignation, and the other of Robert Spencer's visit to campus) and was part of the team that wrote a first-place trio of editorials in 2018. He also received recognition for a music review he wrote in 2019. A political science and public policy major with a music minor, he graduated in May of 2020 and will pursue a master's degree in public policy on a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Manchester before enrolling in law school.

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