About Leigh Daniels

Leigh Daniels

My musical journey began as a child in Atlanta, Georgia. My mother loved jazz music and, thanks to her extensive record collection, some form of jazz always seemed to fill the house. In high school, in Washington DC, I became an avid fan of local musicians Lloyd McNeill and Andrew White, and discovered Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter as a result. I also played harmonica in a blues group, and recall practicing in my grandmother’s basement until our ears rang.

I came to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1975, as a student at the University of Michigan. At that point, I had taken up the bass and decided to study music and composition. Jane Heirich, then the head of the Residential College Music Program, Laura Clayton, and William Bolcom, the recently retired Pulitzer Prize-winning faculty member at the University of Michigan School of Music, were all big influences on me as I explored the art of music composition. In 1987, I received my BA in Composition from the University of Michigan Residential College. Throughout the 1980s, I was involved with Ann Arbor’s Sinewave Sessions new music series. In 1998, my composition Glacier was performed as part of the University of Michigan Residential College 30th Anniversary celebration.

Music took a back seat for over two decades as I pursued a career in microcomputers, becoming more of a hobby during this time period. I first worked with computers at the University of Michigan Medical Library and later at the Computing Center. I enjoyed it, I was good at it, and it paid the bills. I was one of the first people to own a personal computer and was the first person hired by the University to provide microcomputer support to its faculty and staff.

In 1994, I returned to music, playing with various groups at Washtenaw Community College. Retirement from the university, combined with a recognition of my own mortality, led me to pursue my love of music with a renewed dedication. In 2002, I was invited by Ann Arbor vocalist and music therapist Kathleen Moore to be a founding member of the group Songcatchers, exploring improvisations and spontaneous composition. Although I am no longer with the group, I continue to collaborate with Kathleen on various compositions.

In 2005, I began studying composition and arranging with pianist Tad Weed and bass with Jeff Halsey. Using the computer as a tool for composing, my music began to flow again. In the spring of 2007, I took the next step and founded the "Leigh Daniels Jazz Constellation," enlisting the talents of a variety of local musicians to play and perform my compositions. Today, the group is named the “Leigh Daniels Ensemble,” encompassing both the jazz and classical elements of my music. Hearing the music played live, adding the variables of human performance, helps me refine and expand my music. While I am the leader of the Ensemble, I also consider myself a student. These talented musicians have spent a great deal of time developing a high level of skill on their particular instrument. I learn a great deal from my interactions with the group and value their feedback.

I find that music is a very fluid, organic process. There is a process, a journey, that is just as important as the end result. This point was brought home in an odd way during a recent live recording of Glacier. Near the end of the recording, my mother-in-law is captured on tape saying "I really don’t like this one ..." It startled me at first, to hear this loud whisper, but I love it. Improvisationally, she became a part of the music! Her unexpected passing just a few months later makes me treasure the recording all the more.

A fusion of jazz and classical attitudes.

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Leigh Daniels can be reached at 4332-384-437 or by email at .