The Catholic University of America

Edward Leaf

Alumnus Helps Children to Learn Music

“I believe in the power of music,” says Edward Leaf (B.M. 2008). “I’ve seen how it can have a transformative effect on children’s lives. It’s very powerful.”

  edward leaf
  Edward Leaf

His strong belief in what music can do for a child, a family, and a community has led this alumnus and adjunct professor of music to establish the nonprofit Arlington Music Initiative. The initiative will begin providing free music instruction to children in need in Arlington, Va., beginning this coming January.

Leaf said the solid foundation in music and music theory he received at the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music enabled him to have the confidence to apply for graduate studies at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, where he earned a master’s degree in music.

Soon after earning that degree, he auditioned for and was accepted to the YOA, Orchestra of the Americas, which provides professional training to young musicians while also giving them the experience of performing throughout the world.

“You have professional coaching by top-notch musicians from around the world, from the Met Opera Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and others from Europe,” he said. The musicians also perform outreach to the local communities they visit.

“Every time we went to a new town, we would go visit a local youth music program,” he said. “These kids were usually in the lower incomes, poor, and they were studying music in these programs for free. Music was being used as a tool for their development.”

Soon after the tour ended, Leaf was accepted through a competitive fellowship to join the YOA Global Leaders program, teaching music in established outreach programs in such places as El Salvador and New Brunswick, Canada. “That’s how I came to the idea of the initiative. I feel really drawn to it.”

Leaf teaches music as an adjunct professor at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and gives private lessons locally. He also performs throughout the D.C. area, and is familiar with many neighborhoods where families would benefit from his program.

Leaf sees his efforts as not only improving the lives of children, but of their families as well.

“When you go to a concert, and the kids are up there playing, it’s really more about the parents,” he said. “These parents may not have the knowledge, time, or money to help their children with lessons. We want to bridge that gap.”

Arlington is his “test case,” he said, adding that he has plans for the organization’s growth and expansion into surrounding areas, including D.C., as time goes on. “If we can gather the resources, we’d definitely like to identify similar areas,” Leaf said. “But Arlington is great — very progressive and interested in innovative ideas.”

Leaf is in the process of identifying funding for teachers and donations of musical instruments.

In remembering his time at CUA, he said the music school was a great place to get an education.

“The small community allowed for the formation of close relationships among my colleagues and instructors,” he said. The benefits of being the only school of music in Washington, D.C., means it attracts the area’s top instructors and professional studies students, he added.

Leaf also said he took advantage of CUA's strong liberal arts foundation.

“From this I learned to view the world holistically and how to approach complex problems and issues,” he said. “I also learned more about myself as a Catholic. CUA reaffirmed for me that an essential element of the Catholic identity is service to others and care for your fellow man. This absolutely influences my work.”

To learn more, please contact Leaf at, or call 610-331-3409.



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Edward Leaf

Degree: Bachelor of Music  2008

Favorite music: Brahms' Fourth Symphony. It's an extremely complex and emotionally powerful work built on very simple ideas and motives.

Favorite place to practice: Ward Hall. A great hall for strings.

Favorite place to study: Mullen. Especially somewhere on the upper floors.

Favorite place in D.C.: The steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Great view and great people watching.

Favorite course: The Historical Rise of Islam taught by Leanora Neville.

Favorite memory: Playing in the Basilica for the Christmas Concert every year. That was always a special night. My grandmother loved that it was broadcast on EWTN.