The Inside Story: Amelia LeClair

Today’s “Inside Story” features Director and founder of Cappella Clausura, Amelia LeClair, a debut PARMA artist and Resident Scholar at the Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center. Enjoy!

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Photo Credit: Eric Antoniou

Who was your first favorite artist(s) growing up?

When I was a child I loved a couple of old 78 records with Peter and the Wolf and some piece by Tchaikovsky that I will never know the name of but can still sing if asked –my siblings and I  played both of these records over and over on our little record player – that’s how old I am!

My father was a great lover of Bach, and I grew up surrounded by that gorgeous sound, and so when I began to study music I naturally loved Stravinsky and the neoclassical movement. I didn’t appreciate much new music until I heard Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring at the age of 22.  That piece was a game changer for me:  at first, it made me angry because I didn’t understand it, but as I learned the score, and listened to it, it became one of the most exciting pieces of music I had ever heard and I fell hook, line, and sinker for it.  I love it still and recently heard it in Boston’s Symphony Hall conducted by our amazing Andris Nelsons.  It was an absolutely electrifying performance I will not soon forget. But when a classmate introduced me to the Kings Singers and all things early music, I was hooked for life and followed that star.

When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist/composer/creator?

When I was about 2.  I have a vivid memory of standing at the piano, reaching over my head to play the keyboard, and finding what I did beautiful.  As a young girl, I took piano lessons but only for a short time due to finances.  When they stopped I was utterly bereft.  I learned guitar, improvised on the piano, sang – did whatever I could on my own. I attempted to study music in my first college but wasn’t accepted into the department for my lack of training. I left that college and went to my state college where I was allowed to pursue my music studies in theory and composition.  At that time, there were “no women composers”, and finding neither encouragement nor role models, I lost faith in my ability to overcome such an obstacle and moved away from music.  I got married, had children, founded a small business, got involved in local politics. At the age of 47, when my children were grown enough to be on their own, I spent a week with my fabulous singer/songwriter brother playing keyboards for his new album.  I fell hopelessly back in love with music, and decided to work towards getting a masters degree in choral conducting – a field I saw some women in. I was accepted by none other than Simon Carrington, one of the founders of the Kings Singers at New England Conservatory in 2001 and incoming Director of Choral Activities. A lovely full circle. He was and is a brilliant conductor, and I learned so much so quickly from him, but I will always remember his kindness and generosity in taking me in.  I made my conducting debut in Boston’s famed Jordan Hall in 2002. Ever since I have been one happy camper.

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What is your guilty pleasure?

French wines of Bourgogne and Provence (also dark chocolate, Wellfleet oysters and of course French fries).

If you weren’t a composer/performer, what would you be?

I was everything I could have been without being a performer for a very long time.  Now that I am a performer and sometime composer, I have seen how much my time as a mother, school volunteer, businesswoman, and political animal have helped me become the leader of musicians that I am now, and that is an incredibly grateful person to the very special people who believed in me and helped me get here.

If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be? And why?

I was born in Paris, France and lived there until I was six.  I lost the language when I became American, and regret that my family didn’t keep it up.  Each time I go back I regain some of it, and I always think it would be so great to live there for a bit. As a lover of chant and early music, my dream is to spend a year or two in France studying ancient manuscripts, visiting ancient abbeys and learning everything I can about the country that produced so much amazing art, dance, and music.  The School of Notre Dame produced really the first classical music we know of (Leonin and Perrotin – and then Machaut! Oh my!) and continued to dominate the classical music field through the baroque era.

Amelia LeClair’s EXULTET TERRA is now available on Amazon, iTunes, and ArkviMusic.

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