Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Leonard, Alex (Alexander Balagurchik)
Leonard, Alex [Alexander Balagurchik], pianist, vocalist, composer; b. Staten Island, NY, 20 May 1961. His mother Jeanette Cuthbert (b. 1922) was born on Staten Island and his father Leonard Balagurchik (b. 1920) was born on the lower east side of Manhattan. He has two sisters, Jenny Brown (b. 1951) who is a dancer and Laurie Balagurchik (b. 1954) who is a physician and Captain in the United States Navy.
Alex began classical piano lessons at the age of 5. In junior high school he became interested in jazz. In high school he began to perform with local clubdate bands, formed his own jazz combo and participated in the jazz ensemble of local colleges. He entered the College of Staten Island (AA, 1982) where he studied arranging and composition under Joseph Scianni and Turk Van Lake. He also studied with Barry Harris at the Jazz Cultural Theater in New York (1981). He went on to The City College of New York (BFA in Music, cum laude, 1984) where he studied under John Lewis, Ron Carter and Edgar Summerlin. After graduating, he continued private studies with Carlo Menotti (voice, 1986-92), and Jim McNeely (piano, 1994). In the 1980s Alex appeared in many Manhattan venues and began working with a trio called Winelight which often featured jazz vocalist Laurel Watson. In the late 1980s he appeared on bandstands with Chuck Wayne, Joe Morello and Jimmy Knepper. At this time he also performed as a backup musician and opening act for many performers.
Alex returned to The College of Staten Island and earned a Masters Degree in Liberal Studies (MALS Degree, 1992) completing the program with a master's essay entitled "Be Bop: A Social and Musical Exploration". He received a faculty award for Outstanding Scholarly Achievement for recognition of his work in this program. Alex participated in the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop (1992-94) under the direction of Manny Album and Jim McNeely and studied voice privately with James Carson (1998-99) and classical piano privately with Boris Gerazimov (1998-2000). In the 1990s Alex performed as an actor and comedian in many clubs also doing some TV and film work. His musical concert performances include the Snug Harbor Jazz Festival, Jazz Interactions Concerts, Forest Hills Jazz Concerts, St. Peter's Church Midday Concert. In 1991-92 he made two trips to perform in Tokyo, Japan and in 2002 he performed in Zurich, Switzerland.
He has been a featured guest on New York and national radio. He is on the faculty of Arcadia University in Glenside, PA and The Staten Island Conservatory of Music. Alex is currently active on the jazz and cabaret circuit in New York City.
Down in the Depths: Interpretations of Cole Porter (2001); Merry Cool Christmas (2002); Celebrating New York: Live at Danny's Skylight Room with Kris Kaiser, Danny Venditti, Shawn McGloin (unissued 2002); Betty Miller: With All Due Respect (2000)