Leander Star

Leander Star

French Horn

He/him or They/them

Describe your role with Portland Opera

I've been the fourth horn since 2013 - wow! Seven years!

What music/book/movie/show/poem/place/moment is currently inspiring you?

I've been listening to more pop music and I have been struck by some of the incredible responses to our times by artists such as Sylvan Esso and Phoebe Bridgers. 

I also recently constructed a "poetry post" for my yard so I've been reading all kinds of poetry. One that really got stuck in my head is one by Ted Kooser called "Mourners."

After the funeral, the mourners gather

under  the rustling churchyard maples

and  talk softly, like clusters of leaves.

White shirt cuffs and collars flash in the shade:

highlights on deep green water.

They came this afternoon to say goodbye,

But now they keep saying hello and hello,

peering  into each other’s faces,

slow  to let go of each other’s hands.


The end makes my heart ache for that simple act of looking in the faces of my friends, touching hands, mourning together. I'm not sure if that counts as inspiration but I do love it when art sees a part of you!

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was really small, I wanted to be a plumber, of all things. It's fitting, since I deal with tubing as a horn player! I did get a chance to do some plumbing last summer as we renovated my house and I had a great time! Valves, flow, fittings all are very familiar to me... There is a tradition in brass instrumentalists of being something of your own technician and I've always enjoyed that part of the trade.

In my free time, you can usually find me...

My friends refer to me as "the cruise director" and I am often organizing activities for us to do; anything from masked games of four square, to online talent shows or poetry readings, a biscuit bake-off, or casual fire pit hang-out. I love my friends and love facilitating our community.

What has your favorite quarantine activity been?

One of the best activities has been a writing project I've been doing with my best friend-- her idea. The subject is the first ten years of our friendship--which started in youth symphony! I think that being stuck at home has generated a lot of rumination for folks. This project has taken that rumination to another level and made it feel productive, shared, and really wonderful.

Another really fun (and funny!) activity has been teaching my partner the French horn. She is a flutist and is already a very good musician but of course she has the sound and range of a beginning horn student! She's a quick study and we've been playing easy duets, Christmas tunes, and--the best--Jurassic Park! This late-night activity leads to lots of laughter and gratitude that we don't share walls with any neighbors.

What is your favorite Portland Opera memory?

My favorite memory is actually from long before I started playing with the Orchestra. My mother was a season ticket holder with Portland Opera when I was a kid and my sister and I would take turns going to the opera with her. For quite a long time, I suffered through this, often dozing through the final act. But as a freshman in high school, I was gifted a mixtape by a crush and on it was Pavarotti singing "E lucevan le stelle" from Tosca. Of course, I listened to the tape until it couldn't play. It happened that year that PO performed Tosca and I was to go with my mom. When that aria arrived, I sat up, electrified. The power of the song live, combined with the exquisitely constructed tragedy on stage was so intense. I cried, for sure... and what I learned was that if I don't have a strong reaction to art, it's often because I haven't developed enough familiarity with the language or medium of the art form. A lesson that I carry with me to this day, as someone who plays a lot of new and experimental music in my career.


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