Leonardo R. Soto, Jr. is the newly appointed Principal Timpanist of the Houston Symphony. Before arriving in Houston, Leo served as Principal Timpanist of the Charlotte Symphony from 2009 until 2018, as well as the Michigan Opera Theatre-Detroit Opera House from 2003 until 2009. He is also an active member of Miami’s Nu Deco ensemble.
As an educator, Leonardo is a former faculty member of Queens University of Charlotte, was an Artist in residence at Central Piedmont College, and an instructor for the Charlotte Youth Symphony program. As a clinician, he has done master classes around the Unites States, including PASIC’s Pennsylvania day of percussion, the University of Charlotte NC, and Eastern Michigan University. Leo often travels back to his native Chile to perform recitals, master classes and clinics at the National University of Chile, the Youth Symphony Foundation and the National Symphony Concert Hall.
Leonardo made his debut as a soloist with the Charlotte Symphony and, in January 2017, performed the world premiere of “Evolution Percussion Concerto,” written for him by composer Leonard Mark Lewis.
Mr. Soto has the unique distinction of being the first native Hispanic Timpanist to play in a professional orchestra in the United States. He began his musical education with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chile, where he received the Teatro Municipal of Santiago National Scholarship. Concurrently, he was trained as a Latin percussionist by his father, Mr. Leonardo Soto, Sr., one of Chile’s most prominent musicians in the field. Leo embarked on his professional career with the Santiago Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra of Chile, where he gained experience in orchestral, opera and ballet repertoire. In 1997, he received the Fundacion Andes International Scholarship, which brought him to the US and Carnegie Mellon University, where he studied with Timpanist Timothy Adams from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He was made an honorary student at Cleveland State University by his mentor, Mr. Tom Freer of the Cleveland Orchestra.
Leonardo has worked with ensembles such as the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, New World Symphony, City Music Cleveland, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, Toledo Symphony, Grand Rapids Symphony, among others. As a Latin percussionist, he has recorded and toured with a number of artists from the Pennsylvania, Southern Michigan and New York areas.
Leo is a performing artist for Pearl/Adams Percussion, Remo Drumheads, and Freer Percussion.