All my professional life (43 years) in the entertainment business as a theatre and exhibition sound designer, sound effects and music recordist.

Ten years with The Royals Shakespeare Company, including five years as head of sound and associate artist. Woked all over the UK, including The National Theatre and The Royal Shakespeare Company; in Europe, including The National Theatre Of Norway and The Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg. Assorted shows on Broadway since 1981. Three exhibitions for Madame Tussauds, including Warwick Castle and Tussauds New York. Directors I have worked with include Sir Trevor Nunn, Sir Richard Eyre, Sir Nicholas Hytner, Roger Michell, Sam Mendes, Jonathan Kent, Harold Pinter, Mike Leigh, Jonathan Miller, Steven Poliakoff and many more, working in all forms of theatre, including musicals.

Sound effects recording, specialising in surround systems, supplied to many companies and sold on-line.

Drama Desk Award, Sound Designer Of The Year Award, USITT Distinguished Career Award. fellow of The Guildhall School, Honorary Fellow of The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Member of the AES, The Musicians' Union and The Institute of Professional Sound.

Lectures and seminars for The Guildhall School Of Music and Drama, The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, The United States Institure for Theatre Technology, The Audio Engineering Society, The Institute Of Acoustics, The Institute of Professional Sound.


Career highlights

John Leonard was born and educated in Bristol, in the south-west of the United Kingdom. His involvement in technical theatre began during his time at Bristol Grammar School and was developed at The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. In 1971, he joined the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Company as a stage technician, moving to the sound department in 1972 and becoming head of sound for the company some six months later.

During his time at the Bristol Old Vic, John introduced many innovative practices, including the use of stereophonic sound effects and surround-sound many years before these became commonplace in theatre. Towards the end of his time there, he co-designed, with his colleague Alastair Goolden, a revolutionary new theatre sound control system, which saw commercial success as the Libra Theatre Sound Desk, winning the prestigious ABTT Product Of The Year Award in 1979.

John was invited to join The Royal Shakespeare Company where, in 1984, he was to become Head Of Sound and an Associate Artist of the company. He worked on most of the RSC’s most successful shows during his ten-year period there, transferring many to Broadway and touring others around Europe. He also developed one of the first computer-assisted theatre sound systems for the company’s Pit Theatre at The Barbican Centre and initiated a concept design study for a digitally controlled assignable theatre sound console in 1985, once again, many years before the idea became accepted as standard practice.

John left the RSC in 1989 to pursue a freelance career: during this period, he became sound associate for The Almeida Theatre, received an honorary fellowship from The Guildhall School Of Music & Drama, for which he is a visiting professor of Theatre Sound, won a Drama Desk award, a Sound Designer Of The Year award and wrote an acclaimed textbook on theatre sound.

John has found time to visit The Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts as a guest lecturer, as well as lecturing in the USA, South Korea and The Philippines. He has been honoured with a Fellowship of The Guildhall School Of Music and an Honorary Fellowship of The Hong Kong Academy Of Performing Arts and in March 2016, John wias presented with the Harold Burris-Meyer Distinguished Career In Sound award at The USITT Expo in Salt Lake City.

As a sound effects recordist, his work in is demand for theatre, exhibition, film and television productions all over the world.

Some of the highlights of John’s career in theatre sound include Piaf, Nicholas Nickleby, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Much Ado About Nothing and Cyrano de Bergerac, all for the Royal Shakespeare Company and all later seen in New York on Broadway: Medea, Hamlet, Plenty, Coriolanus, Richard III, Phedre and Brittanicus, all for The Almeida Theatre Company and also seen in New York;

John is married to the ‘cellist Andrea Hess and they live in London.


Favorite DPA Microphones

5100 - Surround Recording
4060/4061 - Discrete music and sound effects recording
4060/4061 - Sound reinforcement for musical theatre, voice and musical instruments.
4022 (replaced by d:dicate™ 4011E) - Discrete music recording and reinforcement
4099 - Instrument reinforcement
4006 - Music Recording

Contact information

John Leonard Sound Design & Recording
John Leonard
Sound Designer
London, United Kingdom

Profile information

Segments: Theatre
Speaks: English

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