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Observer senior reporter—

Kadeem Leslie (Photos: Michael Gordon)) —-

There is something different about young Jamaican cellist Kadeem Leslie.

From the moment he walks onto a stage to perform, something about his mannerism as he moves into place gives an indication that this will not be an ordinary classical music performance.

“I love music. For that reason I always have to give something more each time I play for an audience,” he explains to the Sunday Observer.

“The music has to come from within, that’s my style… if not it is counterfeit. I put in the work to learn all the classical styles from the masters such as Bach, and learn every inch of the fingerboard, but I strongly believe in making the music my own in order to communicate effectively with my audience,” he continues.

The lanky 18-year-old comes from a musical family. His sister is renowned violinist Nadjae Leslie, while his father Michael plays the piano. Music has been part of his life from birth, starting with piano and violin before settling down with his instrument of choice, the cello.

“I really wanted to play the double bass. I was advised at the time that I was too small to handle that instrument and therefore went for the next best thing, the mello cello. I really love this instrument. It comes closest to the human voice. When I am playing the lowest notes — the C strings — it just takes me to a great place and I find that it really resonates with persons and they feel the music even more,” he says.

Once Leslie decided on the cello started training with American instructor Dr Lisa Walker. Her instructions took his understanding to a great level, but he needed guidance closer home and so he chose Jamaican Alistair Drummond, whom he says took his mastery of the instrument to another level. But the constant guidance and mentorship of Jamaican performer, arranger and teacher Paulette Bellamy stands out for him.


“She could have left Jamaica as she was a child prodigy, but instead she chose to remain here and share her talent. She is classically trained, but what she now shares with students is how to use the language of music as a powerful instrument for change.”

Leslie has created his own platform when it comes to igniting change. He wants to change the long-held stereotypical views about classical music. To this end he started a foundation — More Arts From Mozart — with fellow musician Jovani Williams, which has as its core value: to raise awareness about classical music and to get persons, especially among children and young people.

“My dream for Jamaica is to have as many people as possible knowing about classical music. I know its a lot of work but I have started. We need to advance the arts in Jamaica. We are known for our reggae music but there is a lot more. In the same way we would like to groom young Jamaicans to contribute to the world in the areas of IT, science and business, we must be preparing to take it to the world in classical music. The public has to understand that classical music is not just the music of Bach and Mozart, but classical music is being written today. I want to see the first conservatory of music built in Jamaica, when Jamaicans will know that my instrument is a cello and not a big guitar or big violin as it is often referred.”

In preparation, Leslie leaves the island shortly to take up a full scholarship at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, United States, where his will major in international business and music.

“I have chosen this major, because I have a real interest in both areas. Plus is honestly feel that musicians and persons in the creative arts must learn to apply business principles to what they do in order to reap maximise benefits,” he states.

Leslie has performed with the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica, The Philharmonic Orchestra of Jamaica, the orchestra at Hillel Academy and through his More Arts For Mozart programme he helped to start the orchestra at Liguanea Preparatory School in St Andrew.


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