David Leisner ’75

Wesleyan offered me a stimulating mix of liberal arts courses, finding ways of making meaningful connections between disparate disciplines, and sometimes magically finding the wonder in it. An inspired teacher/artist like Franklin Reeve could bring me to new levels of inquiry and discovery, or a brilliant course like Landscapes of the Mind’s Interior, co-taught by COL’s Richard Stamelman and the religion department’s Jeremy Zwelling, could introduce me to new ways of thinking about literature and the human psyche. But the most powerful influence of all was music professor Richard Winslow. He is a man I am proud to call a true mentor. By his own example of composing intelligent, poetic, plain-spoken yet sophisticated music, by his original style of teaching courses in theory and a private tutorial, by his off-hand but deeply serious and committed choral conducting, and by his unwavering support and prodding of both my composing and performing work, Dick Winslow made a deep difference in my life. And continues to do so to this day.

My career has gone on to some exciting musical activities, juggling a triple career as concert guitarist, composer and teacher. My performances take me around the globe to much critical acclaim — a recent review in American Record Guide called me "one of the finest guitarists of all time" (try living up to THAT one in your next performance!). I’ve recorded eight solo CDs, with many chamber music and concerto recordings as well. The latest is currently in the editing stage and headed for release very soon, featuring two works I commissioned from two of the most important living composers — David Del Tredici’s 35-minute solo masterpiece, Facts of Life, and Osvaldo Golijov’s Fish Tale for flute and guitar. My own orchestral, chamber, vocal and guitar compositions were recently all taken on by the major American publisher, Theodore Presser Co., and are regularly performed and recorded worldwide. And after commuting to Boston for over 20 years to teach at the New England Conservatory, I’ve settled into a part-time position as the co-chair of the guitar department at the Manhattan School of Music and continue to give master classes wherever I perform, following in the footsteps of those who taught me and passing my own brand of knowledge and wisdom to the next generation. 

It’s a lot to manage, but I had good training on every level from Dick Winslow and his talented cohorts at Wesleyan. I am grateful.  

In this video, Leisner performs the Elegy (8') by Johann Kaspar Mertz (1806-1856).