"Sure, she can breathe beautiful, delicate melodies through her instrument—but she can also speak into it, sing, hum, or beatbox through it, clatter its keys, bend its pitches, make its melodies vibrate, flutter, shimmer, and soar."
- Maggie Molloy, Second Inversion
Listen to this episode of North West Focus Stories to hear about my background, my relationship to classical music, how I picked the flute despite all odds, how I love and am obsessed with taiko drumming, and how all of this effects the work I do today.
A freelance flutist, artist, improviser, and composer in the Seattle area, Leanna Keith delights in creating sound experiences that make audiences laugh, cry, and say: “I didn’t know the flute could do that!” She also teaches as the flute professor at Cornish College of the Arts. Her performance artworks have focused on cultural connection and the breaking of audience/performer boundaries. Her recent work: "Finding the InBetween," presented at NW New Works by On The Boards focused on the challenges faced by mixed-race people in America through music, crowd-sourced interviews, spontaneous poetry, and dance. The same summer, she premiered the "Concerto for Tea Ceremony" where audience members participated in a tea ritual as the soloist. In the fall of 2019, she debuted a piece called "imagination is an act of rebellion" at BASE Arts Space where she brought the audience to the stage to share an immersive group composing experience. Leanna was supposed to present a new work in collaboration with Dust In Your Eyes Puppetry this spring, but due to COVID-19 the project has been postponed - which would have focused on queer identity and radical queer theory. Her incubating projects focus on themes such as gun violence and the emotional connection with heritage languages.
She has been nominated for the Seattle Gypsy Rose Lee award in composition and the Seattle Gregory award in composition for the play Sheathed by Maggie Lee. She also wrote and performed the score for the play We Go Mad by Amy Escobar. This summer, she would have premiered a new score for the play Night Parade by Kendall Uyeji, which was postponed due to COVID-19.
Leanna has been invited to perform as soloist and with chamber ensembles in a wide variety of conferences and festivals including: 2020 Mid-Atlantic Flute Festival, NW New Works Festival 2019 at On The Boards, the 1st and 2nd Canadian Flute Convention, Omaha Under the Radar in 2014 and 2019, 2015 Oscillations Concert Series, Oh My Ears! Festival in 2016 and 2018, Electronic Music Midwest 2017, 2017 and 2018 National Flute Association Convention, the 2018 World Flute Festival in Mendoza, Argentina, and NUMUS Northwest 2018. In addition to her performance experience, she has presented her research at universities throughout the country and abroad. She also completed a residency at Avaloch Farm Music Institute in 2017.
Leanna is currently a co-director of the chamber music ensemble Kin of the Moon, with violist/improviser Heather Bentley and composer/vocalist Kaley Lane Eaton. Kin of the Moon is an improvisation-centric, technology-friendly chamber music series incubated in Seattle's rich musical scene. The series explores sonic rituals, promotes cross-pollination of genres, emphasizes the communicative power of specific performance locales, and celebrates the creativity that multiplies itself through the collaboration of performers and composers.
In April of 2015, Leanna published Journey to the East, through ALRY Publications, transcribing traditional Chinese bamboo flute music for modern performance. She has presented her research on dizi and Chinese traditional music to colleagues and students at the 1st Canadian Flute Convention, the University of Nebraska, and the University of South Dakota.
In 2016 Ms. Keith earned her Master of Music degree in Flute Performance at the University of Washington in Seattle with Donna Shin. Her undergraduate Bachelor of Music degree in flute performance was under the tutelage of Dr. Christine Erlander Beard at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, with whom she had studied since 2008. Her studies in orchestral repertoire continued with Erica Peel of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and with Zart Dombourian-Eby of the Seattle Symphony. In addition to her Western classical flute training, Ms. Keith also studied the Chinese Dizi with flutist Jianxun Xia, and the Japanese Shinobue with flutist Kaoru Watanabe. Leanna was a Teaching Artist with the Seattle Symphony from 2017-2018. She served as webmaster for the Seattle Flute Society from 2016-2018.