Symphony of Soul
In May of 2000, Leslie’s mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer and was treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Her mother was terrified and asked Leslie to sing to help calm her nerves. Heartbroken to hear such fear in her mother’s voice, Leslie sat at her mother’s bedside and, with her eyes closed and her back to the door, softly sang prayerful words and melodies to help her mother relax. Because her eyes were closed and her back was to the door, Leslie didn’t realize that the nurse had opened the door to the room and the other cancer patients on the ward had gotten out of their beds and were standing in the doorway listening. In that moment, Symphony of Soul was born.
Leslie settled in Austin and founded Symphony of Soul, a nonprofit organization that supports Austin’s musicians by paying them to provide live “musical medicine for the soul” to people who are confined in care centers and facing challenging circumstances. With more than 100 professional musicians of all genres – classical, jazz, blues, folk, rock and more – Symphony of Soul provides live music to people that are confined in hospitals, shelters, rehab centers and retirement homes.
Symphony of Soul serves everyone from infants to senior citizens who are coping with cancer, Alzheimer’s, alcohol and drug addiction, mental illness, homelessness and other challenges. Since its inception 16 years ago, Symphony of Soul has served over 35 care centers in Central Texas. The charity grows exponentially each year. In 2015, Symphony of Soul gave 400 performances.
Leslie’s mother survived the cancer and they had several wonderful and joyful years together. However, her mother later developed Alzheimer’s. Leslie was thankful that she could walk the painful 8-year journey of Alzheimer’s alongside her mother until she passed away in August 2012. As heartbreaking as it was for Leslie to witness her mother’s decline, she is quick to say that it was one of the most spiritual experiences of her life. Through the power of song, Leslie and her mother managed to stay very close and connected up until the very end. She continues to run Symphony of Soul as an ongoing tribute to her mother.