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What's That Sound?

Leigh Daniels Bio

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

Daniels came to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1975, as a student at the University of Michigan. He had taken up the bass and decided to study music and composition. Jane Heirich, 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 Daniels as he explored the art of music composition. In 1987, he received a BA in Composition from the University of Michigan Residential College. Throughout the 1980s, Daniels was involved with Ann Arbor's Sinewave Sessions new music series. In 1998, his 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 Daniels pursued a career in microcomputers. "Music became 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." Daniels 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, Daniels returned to jazz music, playing with various groups at Washtenaw Community College. Retirement from the University, combined with a recognition of his own mortality, led Daniels to pursue his love of music with a renewed dedication. In 2002, he 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 Daniels is no longer with the group, he continues to collaborate with Kathleen on various compositions.

In 2005, Daniels began studying composition and arranging with pianist Tad Weed and bass with Jeff Halsey. Using the computer as a tool for composing, his music began to flow again. In the spring of 2007, Daniels took the next step and founded the "Leigh Daniels Jazz Constellation," enlisting the talents of a variety of local musicians to play and perform his compositions. Today, the group is named the "Leigh Daniels Ensemble," encompassing both the jazz and classical elements of Daniels’ music. "Hearing the music played live, adding the variables of human performance, these help me refine and expand my music." While Daniels is the leader of the Ensemble, he also considers himself 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."

For Leigh, "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, Leigh's mother-in-law is captured on tape saying "I really don’t like this ..." Daniels explains further: "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 Daniels treasure the recording all the more.

Leigh Daniels can be reached at 734-483-2334 or by email at . His website is

About the Leigh Daniels Ensemble

Originally founded as Leigh Daniels Jazz Constellation in March, 2007, he recently changed the name to the Leigh Daniels Ensemble to free the group from the too-rigid "jazz'" classification. Since its inception, the Ensemble has grown to twelve current members. Today, the Ensemble includes Leslie DeShazor Adams, viola and string section leader; Buddy Budson, piano; George Davidson, drums; Rob Pipho, vibraphone; Terry Kimura, trombone; Kathleen Moore, voice, flute and percussion; Judith Teasdle, violin; Brad Phillips, violin and mandolin; and Nancy Millen and Katri Ervamaa, cello, and Daniel McDonald, percussion and guitar..

Daniels says, "It's a dream-come-true for me to be playing with the people in the Ensemble. Although I am the leader, I also am learning from the excellent musicians who are bringing the notes I write—and those of others—to life. I have built the music and the program on the premise that through teaching and learning from each other, we can produce sounds and forms that are interesting, inventive and immensely satisfying to listeners. For me the process of playing together over time is at least as important as playing a concert."

Daniels decided to form an ensemble of musicians committed to regular sessions dedicated to the exploration and further development of each piece of music, as a means to realizing the full scope of his compositions. The sound he is trying to create requires a group of the same people playing together over an extended period of time. He thinks of each weekly meeting more as a workshop and less as a rehearsal in the traditional sense.

Ensemble concerts offer the opportunity to hear a mix of contemporary, classical and jazz compositions in a program that is predominantly his original music, plus a few of his arrangements of otherworks. The Leigh Daniels Ensemble has performed throughout Southeast Michigan, with ticket proceeds benefiting local charities and music institutions. Most recently, the Ensemble entertained over one hundred local jazz and music fans at the Firefly club in Ann Arbor. Check the Events page for information about upcoming concerts and related activities.

Current Press Release

Leigh Daniels Ensemble at Performance Network Theatre [pdf 28k]

Leigh Daniels Ensemble at Performance Network Theatre [rtf 7k]

Leigh Daniels Ensemble at Performance Network Theatre [doc 23k]

Photos of Leigh

Leigh Daniels

Leigh Daniels

Leigh Daniels

Leigh Daniels

Leigh Daniels

Leigh Daniels

Photos by Cheri Smith (

A fusion of jazz and classical attitudes.

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