Leslie B. Dunner, D.M.A
Dr. Leslie B. Dunner is currently conductor of the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra. He is also interim artistic director of the South Shore Opera Company, where he has been music director since 2014, and resident conductor of New Jersey's Trilogy: An Opera Company since 2018. His stirring performances with the Long Beach Opera of Anthony Davis' historical work The Central Park Five received the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Music.
Dunner served as music director of the Joffrey Ballet and music director for the symphony orchestras of Annapolis, Dearborn, and Nova Scotia. He spent 11 seasons at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO), first as assistant, then associate, and finally as resident conductor, while serving concurrently as music director of the DSO's youth orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Civic Orchestra. Besides holding principal conducting positions at the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Harlem Festival Orchestra, and Louisville Ballet, he undertook a season as interim music director of the Orquesta Filarmónica de Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Dunner's guest engagements with major orchestras include two years with the Chicago Symphony and five with the New York Philharmonic as cover conductor, where he also assisted during a four-week European tour. He has appeared with such distinguished ensembles as the Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, San Francisco, and Seattle Symphonies, the Cleveland, Minnesota, and Philadelphia Orchestras, as well as orchestras in Canada, Mexico, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ukraine, Russia, and South Africa. An avid ballet conductor, Dunner has taken the podiums of the American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet, Michigan Opera Theatre, Royal Ballet at Covent Garden, Birmingham Royal Ballet, and South African Ballet Theatre, among others.
In addition to his professional conducting work, Dr. Dunner is a dedicated music educator. He began his career in music education as assistant professor at Minnesota's Carleton College and has continued to lead youth orchestras throughout his career. The first American prize-winner in the Arturo Toscanini International Conducting Competition, he is also a recipient of the Leonard Bernstein American Conductors Award and the NAACP's James Weldon Johnson and Distinguished Achievement Awards.
When not conducting, Dr. Dunner continues to perform as a clarinetist.
I appreciate what intellectually gifted students can bring to all of their endeavors, whether academic or artistic. With proper guidance, students can excel at the highest level of their potential. My belief is that as a music educator, my responsibility is to help the individual artistic skills of each student develop to the fullest of their capabilities. This, in turn, helps each student better to be able to cope with the challenges presented to them throughout life. As we help each student find their creative and artistic core, we, in turn, help to make for a better society. In this I am confident.
- Conducted performances of Wagner's operas Siegfried and Gotterdammerung from The Ring Cycle to critical acclaim, according to Edward A. Bortnichak & Paula M. Bortnichak, regular critics for Germany's Bayreuth Festival of Wagner's Ring Cycle, 2019 and 2020.
- Conducted the World Premiere of Anthony Davis' critically acclaimed seminal contemporary work, The Central Park Five. These opera performances went on to be recognized as the work received the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Music.
- Conducting as part of the Interlochen Arts Academy's "ONE" performance on tour to Miami in March 2020, leading the Academy Orchestra in a memorable performance of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5, joined by dancers from the Academy's Dance Department.
- Highly successful collaborative performances of the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra with the Interlochen Theatre and Dance Departments in presenting The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the full ballets Swan Lake and The Nutcracker in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
- Conducting a moving interpretation of Charles Ives' "The Unanswered Question" as part of the Spring 2020 Interlochen Arts Academy Festival. The playing components were made remotely by our students in their home states and home countries, submitted by computer, and produced by the technicians of Interlochen Presents. The performance paid tribute to the world's concern over COVID-19, and the hope for a better tomorrow.
B.M., Clarinet Performance - Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester
M.A., Music Theory and Musicology - Queen College, City University of New York
D.M.A., Orchestral Conducting - College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati