Heward was born in Liversedge, Yorkshire, the son of a railway porter and organist. He showed remarkable musical promise as a child. By the age of two he was playing the piano, by the age of four he was playing the organ, and by the age of eight he was accompanying a performance of Handel's Messiah on the organ in Bradford. In 1917 he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music. There he was one of the first pupils in Adrian Boult's conducting class, and was described by Hubert Parry as "the kind of phenomenon that appears once in a generation".
- Blom, Eric. "Heward, Leslie (Hays)". Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2017-01-08.
- Andrew Moeran (March 2006). "Moeran's People and Places". The Worldwide Moeran Database. Retrieved 2007-08-18.
- Jones, Michael (2004). "Heward, Leslie Hays (1897–1943), composer and conductor". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2017-01-08.
- King-Smith, Beresford (1995). Crescendo! 75 years of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. London: Methuen. ISBN 0413697401.
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