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|Leslie B. Dunner|
|Birth name||Leslie Byron Dunner|
January 5, 1956 |
New York, New York, U.S.
|Occupation(s)||Composer, Conductor, Clarinetist|
Leslie was born in New York City to parents Lloyd Bertram Dunner and Audrey (Hemmings) Dunner. His father worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and later for the Brooklyn Department of Sanitation, while his mother was a social worker. Dunner grew up in Harlem and the South Bronx and developed an interest in jazz that was disapproved of by his high school teachers. He learned to play the clarinet and also acquired from his older sister a passion for African dance, a talent that led to him becoming the youngest performer at the 1964 New York World's Fair. He went on to the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music, where he was awarded his bachelor's degree in 1978. He later attended Queens College in New York, where he was awarded a master's degree in 1979, and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where he was awarded a Ph.D. in 1982.
Dunner's first professional appointment was an academic one. He became a professor of music at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, in 1982. He remained there until 1986, when he became the principal guest conductor at the Dance Theatre of Harlem and, in 1987, the resident conductor at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO). Dunner's residency at the Detroit Symphony lasted until 1999 and provided the platform on which he built his subsequent career.
Dunner's reputation as a conductor rests on his ability to communicate with the audience through a wide variety of musical styles, and through his willingness to experiment with tempo and presentation. He is a flamboyant performer whose conducting style owes almost as much to dance as to the more conservative classical music tradition. While he was with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, first as resident, then associate, and finally as assistant conductor, Dunner performed in concerts ranging from Pops to the major classical repertoire. He also led the DSO in developing their educational programs, concerts for young people, and touring programs. Above all, as Dunner told the New Bay Times (Annapolis) in 1998, he is interested in having his audiences feel the music as well as experience it intellectually.
During his time with the DSO, Dunner's reputation as a charismatic and popular conductor grew quickly. In 1994 he was invited to work as assistant to veteran conductor Kurt Masur (1927--) with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, joining them on their 1995 European tour. His association with the New York Philharmonic ended in 2001. Also in the 1990s Dunner was involved with the Detroit Symphony Civic and Dearborn Symphony Orchestras and toured Europe, South America, and the United States with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. In 1992 he performed with the Dance Theatre of Harlem for Nelson Mandela, the South African leader who had been released from prison two years earlier. Dunner also took the Dance Theatre of Harlem to world-famous festivals, including the Salzburg Festival in Austria and the Tivoli Festival in Denmark.
In 1998, Dunner took up the post of music director of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra with a promise to rejuvenate the orchestra with his own brand of flamboyant conducting and varied musical programming. He explained to the New Bay Times shortly before taking up the post that he hoped to make the audience react to the music: "I think the only promise I can make at this point is things won't be boring.... People have to make up their own minds as to whether they like something or not." Although he began his residence at Annapolis with the conservative program inherited from his predecessor, in the five years he worked in Annapolis the orchestra developed a reputation for the accessibility of its concerts and the dynamism of its performances.
Dunner left Annapolis in 2003 moving to Chicago and took up the post of musical director at the renowned Joffrey Ballet Company, pledging to ensure that the dancers never performed without live musical accompaniment. By the end of 2003, he had already made his mark on the ballet orchestra, the Chicago Sinfonietta. Hedy Weiss, dance critic of the Chicago Sun Times, called his Christmas 2003 performance of The Nutcracker "masterful," praising the way he adjusted rhythm and tempo "to support, even inspire, the performer's perfect balance."
Besides his long-term posts Dunner has performed as guest conductor with major orchestras around the world. These include the New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco and Seattle Symphony orchestras, the Symphony Orchestra of Madrid (Spain), and the Warsaw Sinfonia (Poland). Dunner makes regular trips to South Africa, where he has performed with that country's major orchestras. He has also performed with chamber orchestras, and with prestigious international dance companies, including the American Ballet Theatre, the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden (London, England), and the Birmingham Royal Ballet (Birmingham, England). Dunner has also received many awards and honors, including the Detroit Man of the Year and Spirit of Detroit awards, and commendations from the National Association of Negro Musicians. He was the first American winner of the Arturo Toscanini International Conducting Competition in 1986, and the recipient of the Distinguished Young Alumnus award from the University of Cincinnati in 1996. He was also honored by the NAACP in 1991 with the James Weldon Johnson Award.
Awards and recognition
Colorado Philharmonic National Conducting Competition, Denver, First Prize, 1986; Arturo Toscanini International Conducting Competition, Parma, Italy, Third Prize 1986; Spirit of Detroit award, 1988; "Leslie Dunner Day," Annapolis, MD, 1998; Delta Phi Beta, Detroit, named Man of the Year, 1988; NAACP, James Weldon Johnson Award, 1991; University of Cincinnati, Distinguished Young Alumnus Award, 1996.
- Greenfield, Phil (5 February 1998). Candidate Dunner has trio of talents; Diversity: Leslie Dunner, who is vying for the directorship of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, is a talented conductor, composer and clarinetist, The Baltimore Sun, Retrieved November 22, 2010