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Cathy Leach: “An Eagerness to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone Is Very Important for Growth”


In this insightful interview, Cathy Leach, a distinguished trumpeter with a remarkable career spanning 39 years as a professor at the University of Tennessee Knoxville and 31 years as the Principal Trumpet with the Knoxville Symphony, shares her rich musical journey. Leach’s immersion in the world of trumpet began in a small Vermont town under the guidance of her high school band director, Malcolm Rowell, igniting a passion that led her to a lifetime of teaching and performing.

Leach’s early influences include Walter Chestnut and Clifford Lillya, who played pivotal roles in shaping her musical foundation. A member of the Galliard Brass Quintet during her time at the University of Michigan, Leach’s exposure to a diverse repertoire laid the groundwork for her future as both an educator and performer. She reflects on the significant impact of her experience studying with Vince Cichowicz at Northwestern University, emphasizing the transformative nature of sabbaticals for educators.

Transitioning into her role at the University of Tennessee Knoxville in 1981, Leach navigated the challenges of motivating students with varying levels of dedication. She discusses the evolving landscape of studio cultures and the constant juggle of teaching responsibilities, administrative duties, and maintaining work-life balance.

Leach shares her observations on the trajectories of her students, emphasizing the importance of a genuine desire for improvement and openness to new experiences. Her successful students, she notes, possess a commitment to growth, a willingness to step outside their comfort zones, and an openness to seizing opportunities in the broader musical landscape.

As she reflects on her teaching career, Leach finds joy in witnessing her students’ progress and cherishes collaborations with colleagues. In retirement, she engages in diverse pursuits, including yoga, learning the violin, and contributing to writing projects. Living with legendary trumpeter Doc Severinsen, Leach remains active in the music world, assisting with Severinsen’s projects while preparing for upcoming performances.

Cathy Leach’s journey encapsulates a life deeply intertwined with music, education, and a commitment to fostering the next generation of musicians. Her story resonates with a passion for continuous learning and a celebration of the diverse facets of a musician’s life beyond the stage.

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ISSN: 2792-8349

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International Journal of Music