Serenata Singers is thrilled that Leanne Piller joined us as Music Director in the fall of 2017. Her approach to choral conducting is simple: “Every singer should have good vocal technique and be singing to the best of their ability.” To achieve this, she brings to bear considerable training and experience.
Exceptionally qualified, Leanne has a Master’s of Music Performance (Choral Conducting) degree from the University of Toronto, but she already knew from a young age that she wanted to be a conductor. At the age of 3, at a family birthday celebration, she spontaneously began conducting the family in the singing of “Happy Birthday.” She started piano lessons at 6. By age 11, she was already accompanying singers, and she realized that it would help her become a better accompanist if she were to study singing herself. So she began studying voice as well as piano.
At 14, she remembers attending a live performance by a professional orchestra for the first time. She was hooked. She knew that she had to become the conductor, the person who could lead the whole group to work together and make beautiful music. This desire led to her conducting her high school band on a few occasions, and of course to her choosing to study music: voice, piano, and conducting, at Brock University, where she earned her Bachelor of Music degree.
By the time she entered the Master’s program at U of T, she was already an experienced accompanist, as well as a piano teacher and vocal coach. She had also already conducted several choirs, including a children’s choir that performed at the opening of the Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls in 2011–2012, and numerous church, community, and children’s choirs. She considers herself fortunate to have studied under Dr. Hilary Apfelstadt, a talented and passionate educator, whose ability to find solutions to choral challenges, and to communicate them effectively, was remarkable. Leanne aspires to emulate Dr. Apelstatdt’s methods with all of the choirs she leads. While at U of T, Leanne was awarded the Elmer Isler Graduate Fellowship in Choral Conducting.
At last count, Leanne was conducting eight choirs and serving as administrator for one, as well as teaching piano and coaching vocal students. She holds it all together by staying “very organized” and approaching her work with energy and enthusiasm. “I do it for the love of the music and the joy it creates, she declares. “I’m very lucky that my passion became my life’s work.”
Stan Farrow earned his A.T.C.L. (England) in piano performance at age 17. He was active as a performer and writer through university and in musical productions at David and Mary Thomson C I, where he taught Classics for 35 years. He was the "orchestra" for the Scarborough Gilbert and Sullivan Society for many years.
Stan has received numerous awards, including the Distinguished Alumni Award from Victoria College, Volunteer of the Year (Scarborough Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department), and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Phyllis Russell has been with the choir since 2001. Born and educated in Toronto, Phyllis received her A.R.C.T. piano degree, and has been accompanying choral and show groups for many years, among them The Yorkminstrels, The North Toronto Players and the IBM Music Theatre, as well as singing in church choirs.