Cathy Leach has been teaching trumpet at UT since 1981. She directs the UT Trumpet Ensemble, coaches brass quintets, and performs with the UT Faculty Brass Quintet. She also teaches music theory and ear training, and has served as the associate director of both graduate and undergraduate studies in the School of Music.
Why this field?
Although her life has been shaped by the trumpet, it wasn’t her first choice when she joined her school’s band program at age nine.
“I actually wanted to play the clarinet,” she said. “But my father, being a dentist, made up a story that if I played clarinet the space between my two front teeth would get bigger—which was a complete lie. He didn’t want to buy me a clarinet; we had a trumpet in the house.”
From a young age, music played a large role in Leach’s life.
“I grew up in Vermont, and I had the good luck of being in a tiny town with a fabulous music program, including a bunch of terrific high school band directors,” she said.
Leach joined her community band at age 12 and continued to play trumpet throughout high school before attending the University of Michigan for her bachelor’s degree.
“I loved it there,” she said of her college experience.“I felt like I was in the United Nations. Growing up in Vermont, there’s not a lot of diversity, and there’s tons of diversity at the University of Michigan.”
During her sophomore year she joined a professional brass quintet and a professional orchestra, experiences that prepared her to become a graduate assistant at the University of New Mexico.
Despite her extensive work at UT, Leach finds time to perform with the Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestra, and she currently serves as president of the International Trumpet Guild. She also offers private lessons and performs pieces for public schools to promote interest in music programs.
Her significant other, Doc Severinsen, is also a renowned trumpet player and served as the bandleader on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He and Leach frequently arrange and perform music together at their home, a renovated farmhouse in Maryville.
“It’s very loud. Both dogs are deaf,” Leach joked.
Leach enjoys working out with a personal trainer, although she rarely has the time. She also loves animals and has taken horseback riding lessons.
If she didn’t do this . . .
Having been committed to the trumpet since childhood, Leach finds it difficult to think of anything other than a career in music.
“I like animals, reading, and science. I might be a doctor—my father was a dentist—but I don’t know. Music just completely took me over.”
Favorite spot on campus
Leach’s favorite spot on campus is the TRECS outdoor pool, particularly during the summer when most of the students are gone.
She also loves the Natalie L. Haslam Music Center, which was built just five years ago. It’s particularly special to her since she can remember working in the old music building.