“I am the founder, artistic director and conductor of Moorambilla Voices and the Leichhardt Espresso Chorus. In these roles I have worked over many years to establish ensembles that commission, perform and record Australian music and cross-artform collaborations.
“In music education we were taught 'On time is late!' Have a clear philosophy and you will succeed in any educational environment. Positive praise and reinforcement is 10 times more powerful than negative in any context. Any choir, in any form, is a wonderful and magnificent thing. I also learnt that percussionists were the best people to hang out with – they listened to everything and could play in any style.
“I had an incredible cohort who really challenged the notion that people studying education couldn’t play their instrument. Many have gone on to be leaders in their field because we were given the option to succeed as performers at a time when weekly ensemble rehearsals and 40-hour weeks with 20 subjects a semester in the old Con building were the norm. My literature lecturer, the inimitable Erna Bollard, was a beacon of creativity and demanded that we look beyond the walls of the Con for artistic inspiration. Erna often took us out if she felt we were ‘stale’ – we even did a class in David Jones department store so we could smell the wonderful spring flowers before we read poetry! She wasn’t interested in anything other than our best.
“Experiences like this helped me define who I was at an impressionable time and helped clarify why music was such a powerful medium of communication in any genre. The Con reminded me in many ways that there is excellence in every musical sphere and that life is full of creative possibilities if you are brave enough.”
Michelle accepts the University of Sydney's 2018 Alumni Award for Cultural Contribution
As the founder and driving force behind Moorambilla Voices, Michelle Leonard (BMusEd ’93) aims to give children the same opportunities that, as a child, she got to take for granted: making music.
“When I was growing up in Coonamble, lots of towns had a marching band and did musicals every year," Michelle says. That’s all gone now – now kids just watch other people making music on YouTube.” Michelle hopes to change that.