Leonardo R. Soto, Jr. was appointed Principal Timpanist of the Houston Symphony in 2018. Before arriving to Houston, Leo served as Principal Timpanist of the Charlotte Symphony from 2009 to 2018, and the Michigan Opera Theatre-Detroit Opera House from 2003 to 2009. He was also an active member of Miami’s Nu-Deco ensemble.
Leo has the unique distinction of being the first native Hispanic Timpanist to play in a major orchestra in the United States.
As an educator, Leonardo was faculty at Queens University of Charlotte as well as Artist in residence at Central Piedmont College, and an instructor for the Charlotte Youth Symphony program. As a clinician, he has taught master classes including PASIC’s Pennsylvania day of percussion, the University of North Carolina, Eastern Michigan University, Filarmónica Joven de Colombia, University of Georgia, Rice University, University of Houston, Universidad de Antioquia de Colombia and schools throughout South America. 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.
Leonardo has appeared as a soloist with the Charlotte Symphony, Amarillo Symphony and the Houston Symphony. In January 2017 he performed the world premiere of “Evolution Percussion Concerto,” written for him by composer Leonard Mark Lewis.
He began his musical education at the University of Chile and was the recipient of 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 Fundación 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 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.