James Lesniak, Associate Coach/Pianist
A native of Kenosha, Wisconsin, James Lesniak joined the Pittsburgh Opera music staff in 2006. After initial studies with Sheila Wiesztort, he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Indiana University, where he studied with pianists Menahem Pressler, Karen Shaw, and Evelyne Brancart, with the mentorship and influence of Nicolas Larin. His university credits include music staff work for Mississippi State University and the Indiana University Opera Theatre. Further studies included an apprenticeship with the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program at Washington National Opera for two seasons, where he gave his stage debut in the non-singing/piano playing role of Lazinski in Fedora at the Kennedy Center, accompanying Placido Domingo in the opera. In addition, Mr. Lesniak has served on the coaching staff of Brevard Music Center, Glimmerglass Opera, Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center, and the National Symphony. He has been an official pianist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and also made his conducting debut in 2017 with Pittsburgh Opera’s production of composer Laura Kaminsky’s As One and conducted Pittsburgh Opera's production of Tom Cipullo's Glory Denied.
Since 2018, James has served as a coach and accompanist for the vocal students at Slippery Rock University, and for over a decade has been an active member of the Pittsburgh Opera Trunks teaching artist presentation team, participating in engagement programs designed to enlighten and inspire youth throughout the region. For the summer months, he frequently returns to the music staff of the prestigious Santa Fe Opera, where he has served as Musical Director for their Winter Concert Tour and was on the music staff for the Grammy Award winning production of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs.