Mayor of Wandsworth
John Bowis Esq. OBE
Musical Director and Conductor
Leigh O’Hara is a reluctant member of the British music establishment as the only person, apart from Holst and Vaughan Williams, to have roles running the music departments at James Allen’s Girls’ School and St Paul’s Girls’ School. After many years working as a pianist and piano teacher Leigh’s career is now focussed on conducting and his role at St Paul’s where he is Deputy Head in charge of community partnerships as well as music.
Having completed a music degree at the University of York, where he won the department prize for outstanding musical contribution, Leigh continued his piano studies at Trinity College of Music with Simon Young, Philip Fowke and David Owen Norris before completing a masters degree at Royal Holloway, University of London. As well as winning first prize in the Weingarten Schumann Competition he was awarded the Gertrude Norman Prize and Cross Memorial Scholarship. Leigh has studied conducting with some of the most respected teachers and musicians including Peter Stark, Lionel Friend, George Hurst and Rodolfo Saglimbeni.
Leigh has been resident at Dartington International Summer School and Festival for over 25 consecutive years where he has performed as soloist and chamber musician, as well as teaching piano and conducting orchestras and choirs. As well as conducting the Symphony and Chamber Orchestras at St Paul’s Leigh is musical director of Wandsworth Symphony Orchestra and South London Youth Orchestra. He is passionate about community music-making and has conducted three fully-staged operas for Blackheath Community Opera (Carmen, La Boheme and Orpheus and Eurydice).
Leigh is an examiner, presenter and moderator for the Associated Board and frequently works as an adjudicator at competitions and festivals. He has an irrational enthusiasm for public transport, and especially railways, but he has never been a train-spotter.
Mario was born in London and began his musical studies at the age of seven with his father on the flamenco guitar. In 1991 he was a finalist in the BBC Young Guitarist of the Year.
After receiving a scholarship to study at the Centre for Young Musicians, he went on to Trinity College of Music where he completed his BMus(Hons) Degree. Further scholarships then enabled him to gain a postgraduate diploma as a student of Michael Bochmann.
Mario studied conducting with Peter Stark and was coached and participated in master classes with members of the Amadeus, Chillingirian, Vellinger and Wihan string quartets as well as the pianists Yonty Solomon and Ian Burnside.
In 2002 he was a finalist in the Vera Kantrovich Solo Bach Competition and in 2003 won the first prize in both the Barbirolli String Quartet Competition and the Cavatina Trust Chamber Music Competition.
Mario has given solo and chamber music recitals throughout London and the UK. He freelances and guest leads symphony and chamber orchestras and is also the leader of The St Barts Chamber Orchestra
He also teaches the violin and coaches orchestras for the Lambeth