Leslie began her cello studies at age 11 with members of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, as the beneficiary of a scholarship from the orchestra. Studying with fine orchestral musicians from the beginning instilled a love and appreciation of ensemble playing. Leslie joined the award-winning Pioneer High School orchestras in Ann Arbor, MI, and went on to spend two summers at Interlochen Arts Camp – one studying symphonic works through Michigan’s All-State program, and another studying with the Maia and Pacifica quartets during an intensive string quartet seminar.
As a cello performance major at Ithaca College, Leslie studied with Nicola Heinrich, Elizabeth Simkin, and Heidi Hoffman. While there, she performed at Lincoln Center twice with the Ithaca College Symphony Orchestra, toured Ireland with the Ithaca College Chamber Orchestra, performed several complete works for string quartet, and was twice a concerto competition finalist. Leslie enjoyed chamber music coachings with members of the Ariadne Quartet and piano faculty members Charis Dimaris and Read Gainsford, as well as a masterclass with Ani Kavafian. Between her first and second years at IC, Leslie studied with Catherine Lehr Ramos at the Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory.
Following a teaching assistantship at Brevard Music Center with Pablo Mahave-Veglia, Leslie studied with Uri Vardi at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She then worked for Shar Products Company as one of their first ever Apprentices, learning about the music industry from a new perspective and traveling to the 2007 MusikMesse in Frankfurt, Germany to assist members of Shar’s fine instrument and purchasing departments.
Leslie moved east to join the Fairfax Symphony and continue her MM at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she studied cello with Evelyn Elsing. Her time at UMD included a performance with the Left Bank Quartet at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater, a recital with the University of Maryland String Quartet at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, and a ground-breaking, choreographed performance of Stravinsky’s Petrouchka under the direction of James Ross. Leslie studied cello and chamber music with members of the Guarneri Quartet, then in residence at UMD, spent one semester working with the Kronos Quartet, and participated in a masterclass with Steven Isserlis. While still a master’s student, Dr. Kenneth Slowik, UMD faculty and Artistic Director of the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society, invited Leslie to join a doctoral seminar studying Beethoven quartets. This led to an independent study of Haydn quartets with the newly formed University of Maryland String quartet, a subsequent invitation to perform at McGill University’s Haydn festival in 2009, viola Da gamba studies, and several opportunities to use the fine instruments in the Smithsonian’s collection. Leslie also spent a summer at Bowdoin International Music Festival, where she studied with Steven Doane, Rosemary Elliott, and Amir Eldan, and had a masterclass with the Juilliard Quartet.
Upon completing her MM in 2009, Leslie moved to Charlottesville, VA. While in Charlottesville, she met Suzuki Teacher Trainer Beth Cantrell, who inspired her to pursue further pedagogical studies. Over the course of two years, Leslie completed training courses for Cello Books 1-10, Suzuki Principles in Action, and Teaching Cello Group Classes. She studied with Ronda Cole, Tanya Carey, Beth Cantrell, Pamela Devenport, Carol Tarr, and Carey Beth Hockett.
Leslie taught extensively in Charlottesville, beginning with her work for the Charlottesville City Schools through the Boyd Tinsley Program. Boyd Tinsley, violinist of the Dave Matthews Band and one of Charlottesville High School’s most famous alumni, provides scholarships to make high quality musical instruction available to economically disadvantaged students. Leslie taught 7th-12th grade beneficiaries of this fund, all of whom developed the skills needed to participate fully in their award-winning ensembles. As cello instructor for the Charlottesville Waldorf School, she taught group and individual lessons for 3rd-8th grade students, growing the program significantly and developing the introductory class to be both enriching and individualized. Additionally, Leslie ran a full private studio of Suzuki and traditional cello students.
While in Virginia, Leslie spent two years as principal cellist for the Ash Lawn Opera, and played with the Roanoke Symphony, Richmond Symphony, Opera on the James, Virginia Consort and the Oratorio Society of Virginia. As a member of the Afton String Quartet, she performed recitals at Mary Baldwin College, Christ Episcopal Church’s Bach’s Lunch program, and several assisted living centers. The Afton String Quartet also held a residency at the University of Mary Washington, where they gave masterclasses and a recital.
Leslie has most recently taught at the college level, working for Longwood University in Farmville, VA, and presently Grayson College. She teaches privately in Texoma, and performs with the Sherman Symphony. As Education Director of the SSO, Leslie oversees all of the orchestra’s educational programming, and she enjoys developing new outreach efforts. Leslie is married to a Suzuki cellist-turned-astrophysicist, and together they are raising two young children.