Mississauga trumpeter William Leathers – from Juilliard to Nashville Symphony

His Caribbean-born mother told him: ‘Failure to prepare is preparing to fail’

William Leathers

After years of hard work and thanks to the generosity of Canadians, a young trumpeter from Mississauga has landed a major gig following his upcoming graduation from the famous Juilliard School in New York City.

Just four years ago, William Leathers was accepted to his dream school at just 17 years old. But at the time, he said that his family couldn’t afford the $91,000 a year he would need for tuition and housing.

Fortunately, a successful crowdfunding campaign started by a friend helped pay for his first two years of school.

Since then, he has played with the New York Philharmonic and secured a prestigious Kovner Fellowship to cover his third and fourth years at school, he said.

“None of that would have been possible without the generosity of the people who donated,” Leathers said. “[It’s all] because of the generosity of Canadians and people all over the world.”

Now, with graduation just around the corner, Leathers has already landed a coveted position with the Nashville Symphony in Tennessee as the orchestra’s next principal trumpet player. He also made his Broadway debut in The Music Man over the weekend thanks to a friend in the show.

“I was just walking down the street and I saw him,” Leathers said. “And then he said, ‘Oh, Will! I’m going to put you on the sub list for The Music Man.'”

The trumpeter said he hadn’t thought about playing on Broadway before, but was excited to play with the band for the first time.

Now Leathers is looking forward to heading to Nashville. He went through three rounds of intense auditions to land the principal trumpet position, he said.

“They certainly do call it Music City for a reason,” Leathers said, pointing to the city’s thriving country and pop music scenes. “I’m just really excited to get there.”

In addition to the new Nashville gig, he’s also been invited back to Juilliard to complete an accelerated Master of Music degree.

Leathers started learning to play piano when he was four years old.

At seven, he was given his first trumpet, taking after his father, Howard Leathers. At 12, he became the youngest trumpeter accepted to the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra and the Halton Mississauga Youth Orchestra, and at 14, he was invited to perform in Jamaica by former prime minister, P. J. Patterson.

Around that time, he also met internationally acclaimed jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, who is now the director of jazz at Juilliard. After hearing William play, Marsalis told his teacher, “this kid belongs at Juilliard.”

Leathers’s mother Donna was determined to get her son into Juilliard when she spoke about it in 2018.

“My job as a parent is to raise him, do all the right things, get him to the place where he should be able to move on to the next level. And the next level for him is Juilliard,” she said at the time.

Now that he’s on to the next level beyond school, Leathers has some advice from his mother to share with other aspiring musicians.

“My mother always told me, ‘failure to prepare is preparing to fail,'” he said. “Always prepare for anything that you’re going to go and do, especially when it comes to your craft.”