Building community through music

Alumnus Michelle Leonard OAM honoured with a 2018 Alumni Award

After graduating from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 1993, Michelle Leonard went on to found two incredible choral communities.

The University of Sydney’s annual Alumni Awards celebrate graduates who have achieved excellence in their respective fields. For the founder and Artistic Director of the not-for-profit Moorambilla Voices young people’s choir, Michelle Leonard (BMusEd ’93), excellence is giving children a meaningful opportunity that, as a child, she herself took for granted: the opportunity to make music.

“When I was growing up in Coonamble, lots of towns had a marching band and did musicals every year. That’s all gone now,” she says. “Now kids just watch other people making music on YouTube.”

In March this year, Michelle spent three weeks on the road delivering skills development workshops to 3861 children in 77 schools. The children learned to read and make music, observed by parents, teachers, community members and Aboriginal elders in support of increasing the children’s music literacy.

For the past 20 years Michelle has also run the Espresso Chorus, a community choir located in Sydney’s inner west. Through the generosity of the choristers themselves, 20 new works have been commissioned to revisit Handel’s Messiah, and reframe this most famous choral work using a contemporary perspective.

Michelle’s dedication stretches back to her time at 
the Conservatorium of Music, when expectations were high and resources stretched thinly.

“The Conservatorium significantly shaped me. My lecturers told us that we were the people who would make changes to our society and its artistic vibrancy – whether we were ready to or not.”

Michelle’s projects have transformed the lives of young and older people all over New South Wales. And her mission continues. “We have something that we know works now, and it’s worth sharing.”

Michelle Leonard will be recognised for her achievements at a ceremony in the Great Hall on 10 May, alongside five other award winners.

Find out more about the 2018 Alumni Awards.