Carolyn Leonhart

Assistant Professor
617 747-3180
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"I was in the gospel choir for four years at LaGuardia High School for Music and the Arts, and sometimes after concerts I'd be hoarse. So I asked the classical vocal instructor who I thought was the 'best' in my department to help me learn to sing without straining. She told me she wouldn't help me 'until you stop singing in that gospel choir. You can take classical courses with me, but you can't do both.'"

"Years later I found out that a lot of singers had been through the same thing. And I thought, how is it that we have this vast history of American singers and artists singing jazz, blues, r&b—to me the most valid art forms in American music—all doing what they do so well and for so long, when it's so 'wrong'? That's why it's so important for me to be teaching, because it's not 'wrong.'"

"I grew up in music—I learned by doing—and my whole life I'd had this mystical awareness of how my instrument functions. It wasn't until I was having some vocal problems that I found a fabulous voice teacher and started really understanding my instrument for the first time. I was so fascinated by what I was learning that I decided to study vocal pedagogy, focusing on non-classical music. So as a teacher, I can combine my experience with this knowledge to explain to students why 'that's not the best way to hit that note,' and give them the tools and exercises to find better, freer vocal function."

"I want my students to be able to make any artistic choices they want, and not have their instrument limit them. It's very easy to develop bad habits without knowing it, so we need to take our instruments in to be tuned up, just as other musicians do, to check in with someone who can hear what's going on and guide you. I want my students to have an awareness of their instrument and the relationship between the voice, mind, body, and heart—but it needs to be a healthy balance. Be compassionate with yourself, but do the work and push yourself so that you're not afraid to let go in the moment."

Career Highlights


  • B.A., University of Rochester
  • Graduate of Contemporary Commercial Music Vocal Pedagogy Institute at Shenandoah University
  • Upcoming release, If Dreams Come True, with tenor saxophonist and husband Wayne Escoffery on Nagel Heyer Records
  • Recordings include New 8th Day and Steal the Moon, on Sunnyside
  • Recorded two albums as lead singer and cowriter of Switzerland-based pop/ lounge group Lyn Leon featuring Carolyn Leonhart
  • Lead back-up vocalist with Steely Dan for 11 years, four world tours, four albums, and four Grammys
  • Featured on the cover of Jazziz's 2003 Women’s Issue spotlighting up-and-coming singers
  • Performs regularly with her jazz group at New York’s Jazz Standard and Smoke Jazz Club
  • Third place winner in the 1995 Thelonious Monk International Vocal Jazz Competition