One of Portland State’s most distinguished music graduates, Leonard Stehn was Professor of Cello at the Guildhall School of Music, one of England’s most highly regarded conservatory programs.
Early music training was on the piano with his mother. Following in his father’s footsteps, he took up the clarinet and also began a deep study of orchestral repertoire in accordance with his interest in conducting. To broaden his knowledge of orchestral instruments he began study of the cello in high school, rather late relative to customary practice. He made such rapid progress that during his later years at Portland State he was performing regularly with the Portland (now Oregon) Symphony, as well as in a highly regarded string quartet with the late Raphael Spiro, who had moved to Portland after a Chicago Symphony career. After graduation Len left Portland to advance his performing career, eventually becoming a successful freelance musician in New York City.
But his desire to be an orchestral conductor led him to studies with Pierre Boulez, the icon of contemporary French music. Len then pursued his dream further as a graduate student at the Guildhall School in London. For his graduation exercise he conducted a still remembered performance of Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du Printemps,” (Rite of Spring), a major undertaking which would only be possible for an exceptional talent, given the difficulty of the music and the large orchestra required. He continued his professional activities in venues such as the Salzburg Mozart Festival, and in Northern Ireland, Amsterdam and even Hong Kong while undergoing the rigorous process of gaining resident status and a work permit in the U. K.
Leonard was a finalist for important positions as a cellist in several of the excellent orchestras in London but not chosen, partly due to political reasons (union pressures, etc.) At this time he began teaching cello at the Guildhall and soon attracted many gifted students. His faculty listing from the Guildhall School gives a glimpse of his accomplishments:
Department of Stringed Instruments: Cello
Leonard Stehn studied cello with Leonard Rose and George Ricci, chamber music with Joseph Gingold
and William Kroll and was principal cellist of the Tanglewood student orchestra after less than 6 years
playing. Two years later Sir John Barbirolli appointed him co-principal cellist of the Houston
Symphony and cellist in the Symphony's string quartet.
A widely experienced orchestral and chamber music player, he was a GSMD professor from 1971 until his death in 2008. Amongst his students have been principals of many British and foreign orchestras, winners of all the School's cello prizes and three Gold Medal finalists.
He was a Fellow of the School, has been a Course Tutor and recently completed a book, Principles of Cello Playing and Teaching.
Len’s influence on students was not limited to the normal technical and musical considerations. He was quite involved with physical development as it related to string performance. Len also notably prepared students to successfully deal with being young professionals along side older, more established musicians. Several of his students remarked that he treated them not as mere students but as colleagues and expected them to prepare and behave accordingly. His students’ great love and admiration for their teacher has been born out by their gathering around him through the years and after his passing in October 2008, and the many tributes posted on the internet.