Kendra Preston Leonard is a musicologist and music theorist whose work focuses on women and music in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; music and screen history; and music and Shakespeare. She is the founder and Executive Director of the Silent Film Sound and Music Archive and the founder and manager of SHEAF: Shakespeare in Early Film Database.
Leonard is the author of Music for the Kingdom of Shadows: Cinema Accompaniment in the Age of Spiritualism, The Art Songs of Louise Talma; Music for Silent Film: A Guide to North American Resources; Louise Talma: A Life in Composition; The Conservatoire Américain: a History; Shakespeare, Madness, and Music: Scoring Insanity in Cinematic Adaptations. She has been a featured speaker on BBC Radio 3; a speaker for the American Musicological Society-Library of Congress Lecture Series; and a keynote speaker at the American Music Research Center’s Fourth Annual Susan Porter Memorial Symposium on “Nadia Boulanger and American Music.” She presents her research regularly at conferences including those of the American Musicological Society, the Society for American Music, and the Shakespeare Association of America; has published in the Journal of Musicological Research, Women & Music, and Upstart; and has contributed book chapters to several collections. Leonard is the recipient of numerous awards, grants, and fellowships for her work, including the 2019-20 Dena Epstein Award for Archival and Library Research from the Music Library Association; the 2017-18 Rudolph Ganz Long-Term Fellowship at the Newberry Library; a 2016-17 Harry Ransom Center Fellowship; the 2016 Janet Levy Award from the American Musicological Society; a 2016 American Music Research Center Fellowship; the 2016 Society for American Music Sight and Sound Subvention; the inaugural Judith Tick Fellowship from the Society for American Music (2013-2014); and the Thornton Wilder Fellowship at the Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (2009).
Leonard has also worked in scholarly publishing and is a consultant and reviewer for scholarly, higher education, and trade presses.
She trained as a cellist and specialized in twentieth-century and new music, although she has since retired from performance due to lupus. She received her high school diploma from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and her Bachelor of Music degree from the Peabody Conservatory of Music of the Johns Hopkins University. She earned the Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s Certificate in Advanced Instrumental Studies and received her Master of Music degree in cello performance from the University of Miami before attending the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music for doctoral work in musicology. She received her PhD from the University of Sunderland (UK).
As a poet, lyricist, and librettist whose work is inspired by the local, historical, and mythopoeic, Leonard is a frequent collaborator with composers and other musicians, and is the librettist for the operas Marie Curie Learns to Swim (music by composer Jessica Rudman); The Harbingers (music by Rossa Crean); Sense of Self (music by Lisa Neher); and Tobermory (music by Edd Caine, in progress). Her texts have been set by composers Jessica Rudman, Lisa Neher, Allyssa Jones, and Stephen Vincent Casellas and performed by the Choral Arts Initiative and Hartford Opera Theater, among others. Her first chapbook, Making Mythology, was published in 2020 by Louisiana Literature Press, and her novella in verse, Protectress, will be published in 2022 by Unsolicited Press. Individual poems appear in numerous publications including vox poetica, lunch, These Fragile Lilacs, and About Place, among other venues.
Leonard lives near Houston, Texas, with her husband, engineer and research scientist Karl Rufener.