Vernon Proms
Classical Music Festival

Composer, Organist, Pianist

Jim Leonard

Jim Leonard at his home organ

Jim Leonard at his home organ

Jim, as he is preferred to be called, was born in Toronto in 1948, to a musical family. His father was a multi instrumentalist and his mother played the saxophone.

Jim studied piano and organ with Ashley Tidy, the organist at Riverside United Church. At 17 he had his first organist position and at 19 he was organist/choirmaster of St. John’s Anglican Church in the west end of Toronto. He later played at All Saints King City; and for 33 years, at Collier St. United Church in Barrie.

He is a graduate of the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto (1971) and an Associate of the Royal Canadian College of Organists. He taught vocal and instrumental music in Ontario Schools for 29 years, retiring in 2001. Up until the time of the opera (2004) and after, he had written numerous choral and organ selections which were performed by Barrie and Orillia choirs and himself in concert on the organ.

Jim’s father told him he had to be versatile as a musician. One day when he was a young teen, his father taught him how to “swing”. This led to him playing with various jazz groups and rock bands – the first one formed with his brother Bob on drums. Later he played with the 22 piece “Tribute to Glenn Miller Band” in Toronto theatres. So Jim led a “double life” – so to speak.

Jim was commissioned to write an opera on Louis Hémon’s novel Maria Chapdelaine by Opera Barrie in 2004. The first two acts were performed in an artist’s barn just outside of Barrie in 2004. Since then Jim has added two more acts which continue the story after the death of François.

Jim moved to Vernon in 2009. Since that time he has become involved with numerous musical groups and solo singers: The Dharma Dolls; Melina Moore and Valley Vocal Arts; The Cross and Crown Band from All Saints Anglican Church; Playing organ and harpsichord with Oko Baroquo –a period music ensemble; and Early Music Okanagan.