Ray Leslee

Ray Leslee’s compositions for the theatre include A CHAMBER CHRISTMAS CAROL, which premiered in 2010 at the Morgan Library in New York; AVENUE X, the original a cappella musical about racial tensions in New York City which, after an extended run Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, went on to some fifty productions around the world, winning numerous Best Musical awards, as well as thirteen of Philadelphia’s Barrymore Awards for the 1997 and 2009 productions, including Best Musical at the Wilma Theatre; STANDUP SHAKESPEARE, directed by Mike Nichols and produced by the Shubert Organization for Off-Broadway, televised for PBS and toured the U.S. and Canada, revived in New York at the Culture Project in 2005 starring Alfred Molina, F. Murray Abraham, and Alice Ripley; A GOOD MAN, a bluesy musical about a Mississippi tenant farmer, premiered in 2007 at The Vienna Chamber Opera in Austria and was selected for the NAMT Festival of New Musicals in New York. Leslee has composed over seventy-five original scores for the Actor’s Studio, the Acting Company, New York Theatre Workshop, Steppenwolf Theatre, the Kennedy Center, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the Drama Dept., the Great Lakes Festival, Buffalo’s Studio Arena, and Theater for a New Audience in New York – and his work has been performed internationally in Austria, Israel, Switzerland, and the U.K. He was composer-in-residence at Buffalo’s Shakespeare In Delaware Park for fifteen seasons, creating music for some thirty-five plays and original musicals. For the concert hall: “Romeo & Juliet for Orchestra & Actors,” a symphony performed by The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and The New Haven Symphony, “Shakespeare Songs” and “Andante for Strings,” both at St. Peter’s Church in New York, and “Nocturne for Violin & Piano” (Innova Records 2010). His music has been recorded by RCA Victor, BMG Classics, Albany Records, Innova, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and many others. Education: the Manhattan School of Music (Theory) and the State University of New York at Buffalo (B.A. in Music Theatre Composition and M.A. in Humanities). Leslee is a former faculty member of Hunter College, UC Santa Barbara, SUNY at Buffalo, and New York’s LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts. He served as staff pianist for ten years at the Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey schools. As a young pop keyboard player, he toured with Jay and the Americans, The Platters, The Drifters, The Shirelles, Eddie Floyd, and Honi Coles, to name a few. His honors and commissions include fellowships in music composition from the New York Foundation for the Arts (2002 and 2008), artist-in-residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library (2009), the Richard Rodgers Award (twice), the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Antara Ensemble (2008), the Manhattan Community Arts Fund (2009), the Garland Award (Best Score for A CHRISTMAS CAROL in San Diego), the American Music Center’s CAP award, the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, and the ASCAP Special Award annually since 1982. In 1997, he received The Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Musical Theatre Award for lifetime achievement and was honored at Lincoln Center.


Standup Shakespeare