Tania León
Composer and conductor
Born: Havana, Cuba

Internationally acclaimed composer and conductor Tania León is a founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Her compositions have been honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Koussevitzky Foundation, among many others.

“I had to travel. I hadn't even ‘been to the corner,' as they say in Cuba. I used to sit at the Malecón and look towards the horizon, wondering what was on the other side.”

In 1967, León's curiosity took her from Cuba to the United States. Two years after arriving in New York she became the first music director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Since then, her career has encompassed commissioned works, premieres, and recordings. In 1998, León, a professor at Brooklyn College for nearly two decades, was awarded the New York Governor's Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Before going on stage, I think of my mother. I also speak with family members who have passed away, like Dad and Grandma. I tell them, ‘This is going to be challenging. Help me.' The memory of what they sacrificed for my education sustains me and helps me overcome my fears.”












Tania León, composer and conductor. Photograph by Luis Mallo, taken at León's studio, Nyack , New York

Tania León, composer and conductor. Photograph by Luis Mallo, taken at León's studio, Nyack, New York

León's compositions, such as Drummin', Canto, and Horizons, reflect a range of musical influences, from classical and avant-garde to cultural traditions that include her own. In 2003, pianist Ursula Oppens premiered León's Mística in Havana, the first live performance of León's music in Cuba since she left in 1967.

“Every composer is his or her own personal history in sound. Some sounds stick with you; others you recompose or ignore. You are what you hear.”











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