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Born in 1929
Inducted in 2000
Leon Fleisher began to study piano at the age of four. By age 15, Fleisher played with the San Francisco Symphony, made his debut with the New York Philharmonic at age 16, and ten years later he made his Boston Symphony debut. Fleisher won the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium International Competition in 1952, and became the first American to win any major European music competition. In 1959 he received a Ford Foundation grant and spent the ensuing six years performing in recital and as a soloist with major orchestras. However, a crippling ailment of his right hand caused Fleisher to turn his attention to teaching, conducting and mastering the piano repertoire for the left hand. Fleisher’s career as a teacher dated from 1959 when he was appointed to the Andrew W. Mellon Chair at Peabody Conservatory of Music, now the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. His conducting career began in 1967 with his founding of the Theater Chamber Players at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. During the 1980s Fleisher began to perform and record piano literature for the left hand alone. His performances of this material were well received. Fleisher won two Grammy award nominations for his recordings of solo pieces for the left hand and for the Ravel and Prokofiev concertos. Then later, he started playing both left-hand and two hand repertoires in recitals, of which he gave one in Vienna and one at Wigmore Hall in London during the 1998-99 seasons. Leon Fleisher has received honorary doctoral degrees from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Towson State University and the Cleveland Institute of Music. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Other honors have included Musical America “Instrumentalist of the Year” in 1994 and the President’s Medal of Johns Hopkins University.