Veronica Leahy, Latin’s Jazz Extraordinaire
March 1, 2018
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard at least a little bit about Veronica Leahy, the talented Charlotte Latin musician who specializes in jazz. The past few months she’s been travelling across the country, performing on various stages including the Grammys and the Steven Colbert Show. Only a junior, her resume is beyond impressive. Since so many exciting things have been happening with her lately, we sat down to have a chat.
“A few months ago, I auditioned for different bands,” Veronica said. “I found out in early December that I got into these two programs, and they’ve pretty much taken me out of school for the entire month of January.”
The first program was National Young Arts, which is a program for high school students across all creative disciplines. Veronica travelled to Miami for a week to participate.
“For jazz there were seven people selected for it. We played in Miami, we got scholarship money, we went to Master classes… it was so fun.”
After Miami, Veronica flew up to New York City for none other than the prestigious Grammy band camp.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Veronica said with a laugh. “It was amazing. That jazz band was about twenty high schoolers.”
Veronica’s main instrument is the alto saxophone. It’s the one she prefers and feels it is the instrument she excels at the most. However, the Grammy band camp had a different request.
“They asked me if I could play the baritone sax,” Veronica said. “It’s the biggest sax, about my height, and I’ve actually never played one before. So I said sure, I’ll try it! And over Christmas break I pretty much learned how to play the bari sax.”
It wasn’t until Veronica reached New York that she was informed she would be playing on the Steven Colbert Show on January 23rd.
“They said I just need to show up to the studio at 2:00. They didn’t give me any instructions on what I would be playing or anything. I was very nervous. I had no idea what to expect. I get there and they say, you’re just going to kinda play the whole thing by ear. They didn’t give me any sheet music, they said it would be casual and I’d just catch on. Which was crazy! It just so happened that I already knew the trumpet player in the band, so he helped me out a bit.”
Without Veronica switching to the bari sax, she never would have the opportunity to be on the show.
“John Batiste, the band leader of the Colbert show, was trying to find an instrument they didn’t already have in the band,” Veronica said. “So he said, how about we take a bari sax? Initially, when I was asked to play bari sax I wasn’t very happy, because it wasn’t my main instrument. But it ended up being this blessing, because otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten the Colbert opportunity. So when one door closes, a better door opens. It was just a crazy circumstance.”
As for being on the show, Veronica laughed about how nervous she was.
“My adrenaline was just going… I was so nervous I was going to do or say something embarrassing. I didn’t know what to do! Again, I had no idea what was going to happen. The band all has little earbuds in during the taping of the show, and only the band can hear the earbuds. So a voice in the earbuds would go: okay, in thirty seconds, you’re going to play this song, and they’d play a song in our ears. And then we’d just have to play it. It was a real test of my musicianship, and I just had to trust myself. Because there was no way to prepare myself for that.”
Veronica also discussed a difficulty that wasn’t apparent onscreen – she not only had to perform for millions of people, but she had to do it wearing tall heels.
“We warmed up the crowd and ran around the whole studio. I was terrified! I’m carrying the bari sax, which is my size, and I’m in heels, so I was like – I better not fall.”
After the Colbert Show, the Grammys took place. Veronica and the rest of the jazz band toured around New York, playing at different venues. They then played at the Grammy nominee party and the after-party.
“Most of the big big names, like Jay-Z and Beyonce, had their own parties. But all of the jazz nominees, the classical nominees, some of the pop nominees… all of them were there. I got to meet some of my favorite musicians, so that was awesome.”
Not only did Veronica get to play at the parties, she also attended the Grammys.
“We actually had pretty good seats,” Veronica said. “It was just one of those things. I couldn’t believe what was happening.”
Veronica also discussed how male-dominated the jazz industry is. Not only is she a role-model in terms of her musicianship, but also as a leading lady in jazz.
“I was only one of two girls in the Grammy band,” Veronica said. “And when I was in Miami, for National Young Arts, I was the only girl in the band.”
With the Grammys and the Colbert Show behind her, Veronica’s looking ahead to new music opportunities; this time, more classical-oriented.
“In March, there’s the North American Saxophone Alliance concerto competition, which is a judged competition for high schoolers. I’ll be playing the alto sax, and I’ll be doing about twenty minutes of concerto. Then a week after that, I’m heading to Honor Band of America in Indianapolis. It’s always busy, but I love it. I love where music takes me, and the people I meet through it.”
As for her long-term plan, Veronica is confidant what she’ll be doing.