Kendra Preston Leonard is a musicologist and music theorist whose work focuses on women and music in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; and music and screen history, particularly music and adaptations of Shakespeare; and a librettist and poet. She is the author of five scholarly books and numerous book chapters and articles. Her work has appeared in Music Theory Online, Cerae, This Rough Magic, Upstart Crow, Early Modern Studies Journal, The Journal of Historical Biography, The Journal of Musicological Research, and Current Musicology, among other journals and collections. She is the founder and Executive Director of the Silent Film Sound and Music Archive.
Leonard was the 2017-18 Rudolph Ganz Long-Term Fellow at the Newberry Library in Chicago. Other past awards and fellowships include the Music Library Association’s 2019 Dena Epstein Award; the American Musicological Society’s 2016 Janet Levy Award; the Society for American Music‘s 2016 Sight and Sound subvention for her collaborative project with the Silent Film Sound and Music Archive and pianist Ethan Uslan; a 2016 American Music Research Center Fellowship; a Harry Ransom Center Research Fellowship in the Humanities, the inaugural Judith Tick Fellowship from the Society for American Music; and Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Thornton Wilder Fellowship in Wilder Studies.
Leonard’s poetry appears in numerous publications including vox poetica, lunch, These Fragile Lilacs, and Upstart: Out of Sequence: The Sonnets Remixed, among other venues. Leonard collaborates regularly with composers on works for voice including new operas and song cycles. Her latest libretto is for composer Rosśa Crean’s opera The Harbingers, which was premiered on 31 October 2019 in Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery.
Read an interview with Leonard about her work as a librettist at Fran Wilson’s blog, The Cross-Eyed Pianist.
Recent and Upcoming Scholarly Publications, Presentations, and Projects
“Women at the Pedals: Female Cinema Musicians During the Great War,” Over Here, Over There: Transatlantic Conversations on the Music of World War I, ed. William Brooks, Christina Bashford, and Gayle Magee, University of Illinois Press (2019).
“Opera in the Silent Cinema: New Findings from Archival Sources,” Opera and Popular Culture after 1900 conference, Ft. Worth, TX, February 7-8, 2020.
“Music and Mental Illness in Shakespeare,” Intersections: (Dis)ability & the Arts, Misericordia University, Dallas, PA, 21 February 2020.
“Jewishness between Performance and Appropriation: Music for The Merchant of Venice on Film,” AMS-Southwest chapter meeting, Houston, TX, 28-29 February 2020.
“Searching for Women in Silent Film Music,” Darkwater Women in Music Festival, Pembroke, NC, 6-7 March 2020.
Respondent, “The Supernatural and Transcendent in Shakespeare on Screen” seminar, Shakespeare Association of America annual meeting, April 2020, Denver, CO.
Recent and Forthcoming Creative Works
Making Mythology (chapbook), Louisiana Literature Press, 2020.
“Frost Ascending,” Climbing Lightly Through Forests, ed. Rose Lemberg, Aqueduct Press, 2020. Volume in memory and honor of Ursula K. LeGuin.
Protectress (novella in verse), Unsolicited Press, forthcoming January 2021.
From the publisher:
Protectress is a hybrid poetry-prose novella offering a risky take on the legend of Medusa. With stunning economy of words and a delicate hand, Protectress provokes us to think about the feminist identity and the power of compassions. Readers who fell deeply for Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey, Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, Madeleine Miller’s Circe, Emily St. John’s Station Eleven, Seamus Haney’s translation of Beowulf, and Toby Barlow’s Sharp Teeth will find themselves enamoured with Protectress.
Works in Progress
“Projection, Erasure, and Recovery: Women in Silent Film Music” (digital history project)
“Nostalgia and Cultural Memory in Scoring for The General (1927)”
“Jewishness between Performance and Appropriation: Music for The Merchant of Venice on Film”
Leonard’s ORCID is 0000-0003-3005-4344, and you can also follow and engage with her work at Humanities Commons CORE.