Leon Bates to perform with the Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra

By Gus Bode

Leon Bates, world-famous pianist, will come to Carbondale for a celebratory performance of the 100th anniversary of the Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra.

The performance will be held in Shryock Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 30.

Bates will perform the 2nd Piano Concerto of Sergei Rachmaninoff with the orchestra under the conduction of Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra Music Director, Edward Benyas. The Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra will also perform the 1st Symphony of Gustav Mahler.


“I like the challenge of a meaty piece of music,” Bates said.

Audiences can look forward to a romantic performance that is lyrically strong, and incorporates many chords. Bates said that he most enjoys performing pieces that are physically demanding and involve a lot of movement.

“Piano is created in a very athletic way,” Bates said.

At the age of 6, Bates’ kindergarten teacher sparked his interest in music. In fact, he brought the idea to his parents who promptly helped him to begin his training in piano.

Bates performed in public for the first time at age 7 and he said that the experience greatly encouraged him to proceed. From then on, he performed numerous solos each year at recitals, school assemblies and in church.

“Certainly music is to be heard,” Bates said.

He said that the solos he played in his school age were a good learning experience that helped to shape him as an individual musician.


In his school days, Bates also learned to play violin, tuba and sang in the choir.

He said he is glad for the opportunity because it allowed him to understand the different parts of music and how it comes together.

By the age of 13, Bates said he knew that he wanted to pursue a career as a professional musician. Bates studied at Settlement Music School in Philadelphia, Pa., the largest community school in the country, under Irene Beck. Bates attended Temple University’s Ester Boyer College of Music.

At Temple, Bates said he began his transition from student to professional musician under the supervision of renowned pianist, Natalie Hinderas.

After college, Bates earned critical acclaim and began accepting invitations to perform worldwide.

During the past 20 years, Bates has performed all over the world, appearing in performances with the Vienna Symphony, the Sinfonica dell’ Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecelia in Rome, the Strasbourg Symphony in France and in Canada’s Victoria Symphony. He also performed in the U.S. with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the National Symphony.

His performances have earned critical and audience accolades in Carnegie Hall, and the Kennedy Center and the title as one of America’s leading pianists.

As a firm believer in the importance of the arts, Bates is not only known for his skills as a concert pianist, he is also involved on the educational level of teaching young musicians.

“Music is such an integral part of our culture,” Bates said. “It’s something we look forward to, something we enjoy.”

Therefore, he said he would like for his music to have a positive effect on people. Bates said that it means a great deal to him feel that as an individual, he has something unique to contribute to music. He said he is reaffirmed of his personal contribution through the feedback he receives from his audience.

Bates said that he audience’s feedback shows him that his music does say something about his personality.

He said, “I would like to continue that through playing.”

Tickets to see Bates perform are free for SIU students with ID card, $15 for the general public, and $6 for senior citizens 55 and older and children 15 and younger.