Gina Leishman

Composer, Multi-instrumentalist, and Singer

Bio

Basic info:

Gina Leishman is recognised as a composer, multi-instrumentalist and singer, splitting her time between writing and performing, both with her various ensembles and in the theater.

  • As a composer, she had written for opera, theater, dance, TV and film, and has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards.
  • Her work as a bandleader and player has garnered her international recognition for both recordings and performances.
  • She has also received critical claim as an actor and is an award-winning narrator of audio-books.
  • She lives in New York City.

With a little more detail:

Gina Leishman is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and performer, British born but resident in the US since seemingly forever, having fled the goldfish bowl of Old Europe. She composes for theater, opera, dance, film, television and concert stage, garnering numerous awards. Collaborations with other artists include directors Karin Coonrod, Robert Woodruff, Lisa Peterson and Joseph Chaikin, writers Ellen McLaughlin, Tony Kushner and Naomi Wallace, choreographers David Gordon, Bebe Miller and Deborah Slater, composer Doug Wieselman, and performance artists Rinde Eckert and John Kelly. She leads various ensembles, including her long-standing septet Kamikaze Ground Crew, a vehicle for original composition; the Mr. Wau-Wa band, a quintet dedicated to the songs of Bertolt Brecht; and various quartets in support of her solo work. Recordings are available on Koch Jazz, New World Records, Busmeat and GCQ Records. She is also an award-winning narrator of audio-books. She lives in New York City.

With a lot more detail:

Composer and multi-instrumentalist Gina Leishman was born in England, studied music at the Vienna Conservatory and Edinburgh University (B.Mus.Hons.), and made her home in the U.S., first on the west coast and since the early ‘90s in New York City. She has written for theater, opera, dance, film, TV and concert stage, garnering numerous awards.

She is co-founder of the septet Kamikaze Ground Crew. Together for almost 30 years, they celebrated their 20th anniversary with a commission from Chamber Music America’s New Works: Creation and Presentation Program. Portraits was premiered at the 2007 San Francisco Jazz Festival. The ensemble’s latest recording, Postcards From The Highwire, was released in 2007 – earlier recordings can be found on Koch Jazz and New World Records. Concert appearances include the San Francisco Jazz Festival, Earshot Jazz Festival in Seattle, Donaueschingen New Music Festival in Germany (who also commissioned new work), the Vossa Jazz Festival in Norway, Merkin Hall and Joe’s Pub in New York, as well as regular gigs around downtown New York and Brooklyn.

She also co-leads the Mr. Wau-Wa band, a quintet dedicated to the songs of Bertolt Brecht, for which she is the chief arranger and lead singer.

Her work as singer/songwriter is featured on three CDs, Bed Time (2004), In My Skin (2007) and Baseless Rumors (2011) (see Projects). She performs with infrequent regularity as a solo artist and in various and sundry downtown projects, including as a guest vocalist with Steven Bernstein’s Millenial Territory Orchestra and guest instrumentalist with Peter Apfelbaum’s Hieroglyphics Ensemble. Her instruments include piano, alto and baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, accordion, harmonium, baritone ukulele, mandola and the glass tiers. Aside from the regular members of her ensembles (see Projects), musicians with whom she’s had the pleasure of playing include Greg Cohen, Marc Ribot, Jenny Scheinman, Joy Askew, Rob Burger, Miguel Frasconi, Sanda Weigl, Beth Custer, Frank London, Ben Perowsky, Briggan Krauss, Trevor Dunn, Roberto Rodriguez and many others.

Her first opera, Burning Dreams, commissioned through the Meet The Composer/ Rockefeller/ AT&T Jazz Program, was premiered in San Diego. Her second, Actaeon, Part One of Paul Zimet’s Black Milk Quartet, premiered in New York at La Mama E.T.C. The third, Vagabond, is currently in development with the Duffy Institute for New Opera and the Virginia Arts Festival.

As a theater composer, her work includes music for texts&beheadings/ElizabethR, based on the life and writings of Queen Elizabeth I, with Compagnia de’ Colombari (BAM Next Wave Festival); Septimus & Clarissa, an adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, written by Ellen McLaughlin, and directed by Rachel Dickstein, with Ripe Time (CSC and Baruch Performing Arts Center, NYC) (Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Score); Orfeo In Orvieto, an adaptation of Monteverdi’s Orfeo for Compagnia de’ Colombari, directed by Karin Coonrod and premiered in Palazzo Simoncelli, Orvieto; Uncivil Wars: Moving with Brecht and Eisler, an adaptation of Brecht’s Roundheads and Peakheads, written and directed by David Gordon, in which she plays both Hanns Eisler’s music and character (The Kitchen, NYC; The Walker, Minneapolis; Peak Performances, Montclair); The World Is Round Is Round Is Round, an adaptation of Gertrude Stein’s book for Compagnia de’ Colombari, directed by Karin Coonrod and premiered at Arts & Letters, The Mill, Averill Park, NY; a new score for Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children (La Jolla Playhouse and Berkeley Rep) (both Critic Circle Awards) and also for Ellen McLaughlin’s adaptation of Sophocles’ Oedipus The King (Guthrie Theater Minneapolis); scores for NYSF/Public Theater, Vineyard Theater and CSC in New York; ODC/SF dance company, the Flying Karamazov Brothers, Joseph Chaikin, and numerous regional theaters across the country. She was also for many years an Associate Artist at the California Shakespeare Theater, for whom she has created numerous scores including 12th Night, Love’s Labours Lost (Critics Circle Award), Cymbeline, Winter’s Tale, Much Ado and As You Like It.

Collaborations with other artists include directors Karin Coonrod, Robert Woodruff and Lisa Peterson, writers Ellen McLaughlin, Tony Kushner and Paul Zimet, choreographers David Gordon, Bebe Miller and Deborah Slater, composer Doug Wieselman (with whom she co-leads Kamikaze Ground Crew and Mr. Wau-Wa), and performance artists John Kelly, Rinde Eckert and Theo Bleckmann.

Her theater credits also include critical acclaim as an actor at Lincoln Center, BAM’s Next Wave Festival, the Los Angeles Olympic Arts Festival, Goodman Theater of Chicago and many other regional theaters. She is an award-winning reader for Recorded Books in New York City, and Mind’s Eye in San Francisco.

Ms. Leishman was composer-in-residence at Montalvo Arts Center, Saratoga CA, in 2009 and 2010; Artist in Residence at Colgate University in 2012, and composer-in-residence at the Akrai Residency Program in Sicily, 2014. She has been the recipient of grants from the NEA, Meet The Composer, Lila Wallace/Readers Digest Fund, Rockefeller Foundation, Arts International, Chamber Music America, Doris Duke Foundation, American Music Center and the California Arts Council, amongst others.

She has taught at the University of Iowa, NYU, Fordham/Lincoln Center and LIU/Brooklyn, and was a Teaching Artist with the 92nd St Y. She lives in New York City.