Leo Collins, 93, died at home, March 5, 2018. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, he graduated from high school when he was 15, so was able to attend college for two years before he was inducted into the army.
After three years in the army he went to New York where he received his BA and MA from Columbia University. He then went to Juilliard where he was given a Choral Fellowship to work with Robert Shaw. During the years 1948 to 1950 he developed his life-long ability to gather people together to make music. In June, 1949, he put up a notice at Juilliard to invite whoever was interested to meet him in order to work on the Mozart Requiem and perform it at Riverside Church. Seventy-five singers turned up as did enough musicians for a full orchestra. The performance on July 31 played to a full house. The success of this venture led to a repeat the following year. This time the Mass in C Major by Beethoven was performed.
In the summer of 1950, Leo went to Eastern Washington College of Education where he worked for eight years as a Professor of Music. He was the founding conductor of the Spokane Symphony Chorus and performed Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with them. Amongst other things, he conducted several performances of opera scenes with the Spokane Light Opera Company.
Leo moved with his family to Brookline in 1958 and began working for his Doctor of Musical Arts degree. After receiving his D.M.A. from Boston University in 1960, he conducted the chorus at Wheelock College and taught Music History in their Liberal Arts program. While there he created a course “The Fine Arts in Boston.”
Very important to him were all the music programs he started. In 1964, he was the founding conductor of the Cantata Singers. He developed the music program at The First Church in Boston [founded in 1630] and when he retired he wrote a history of the church, gathering historical documents of its founding which were given to the Massachusetts Historical Society. The MHA subsequently honored his contributions by making him a member.
Leo was an active participant in the Emerson Garden Neighborhood Association, and it was a very happy experience for him to be part of this community.
His warm smile and gentle sense of humor endeared him to his family and to his neighbors. He loved Brookline and was proud to call it home.
He is survived by his wife, Joan, of 68 years, three daughters, Catherine, Deborah, Mary, in Brookline, and a son, Leo, and daughter-in-law, Bonnie, in Barrington, Illinois.
A Memorial Service will be held at The First Church in Boston, on Saturday, May 12 at 11:00 a.m.
Donations can be made to The Collins Memorial Music Fund at The First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough St, Boston, MA 02116.