From Music in Cincinnati

John Leman: Inspiration to All

Posted in: 2007
By Mary Ellyn Hutton
Sep 23, 2007 - 12:00:00 AM

John Leman, retired professor of choral conducting at
the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and director
of the May Festival Chorus from 1978-88, died Friday morning at Jewish
Hospital in Kenwood. He was 67.
"He's with the Lord," said his wife, Sharon, who was at his bedside.  Leman,
who suffered from multiple sclerosis and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, had been a resident of Bridgeway Pointe, an assisted living facility on the Drake Center campus in Cincinnati's Hartwell neighborhood.
An inspiration to all who knew him, Leman continued to drive his own van
to concerts and events in the Greater Cincinnati community even after
moving to Bridgeway Pointe in 2001. He retired from CCM in 2000.
Beloved by his Mayfest choristers, the 6-foot-2-inch former high school
basketball player returned to Music Hall every spring to hear the
latest edition of the chorus.
A native of Peoria, Ill., Leman studied choral music at the University of Illinois, where he earned a doctorate in choral conducting in 1974. He came to CCM in
1969 at the invitation of choral department chairman Elmer Thomas.  At
CCM he directed the CCM Chorale and Men's Glee Club.  He founded the May Festival Youth Chorus, served as national chairman for the Committee on Male Choruses of the American Choral Directors Association (1981-83) and led the American Youth Chorus in over 150 performances in 12 European countries.
In 1989, Leman founded the Cincinnati International Chorale, with whom he led 41 performances in 15 countries. In 1991 he led the Chorale in a combined performance with the New Leningrad Philharmonic and Moscow Radio and Television Orchestras and was one of six American conductors to conduct the 22,000 voice choir at the historic "Bridges of Song" Festival in Tallin, Estonia.
Leman was conductor of the Middletown Civic Chorus from 1988-92 and artistic director and advisor of Musica of Dayton.  He won the Post-Corbett Award in 1988 in the Performing Artist category.
"He was a fantastic colleague and amazing choral director," said former
colleague H. Teri Murai, now director of orchestral activities at the
Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. "He helped me when I was the young
kid on the block at CCM." (Murai was music director of the Concert
Orchestra, which Leman often conducted.)
Earl Rivers, head of division of ensembles and conducting at CCM, remembers
him as "a dedicated teacher of and mentor to conductors and singers."
Kentucky Symphony Orchestra music director James Cassidy met John Leman when he was an orchestral conducting student at CCM. "The great thing about
John is he was always a great one with a joke. You'd poke your head in
his office and he'd say, 'I've got one for you.' "
It was a tradition that continued later via e-mail.
"It hasn't been that long since I got one," Cassidy said. "He was a great musician, but I just felt you could be yourself around John. It's what separated him from a lot of professors. He was one of the good guys."  Cassidy said Leman came to many KSO performances. "He couldn't be kept away. He cared that much about his former students."
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughter, Dr. Elizabeth A.L.
Muennich of Dayton, sister Christine Klopfenstein of Grabill, Ind., sister Rachel Neuswanger of Boynton Beach, Fla., three nephews and a niece.
Donations may be made to the CCM choral
department or the John Leman Memorial Fund at Decatur Eisenhower High
School in Decatur, Illinois.
A memorial service is being organized at CCM, details to be announced.
(first published in The Cincinnati Post Sept. 23, 2007)

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