Saxophonist/arranger Leigh Pilzer is a Washington DC-based bandleader and freelancer. Her combo has been featured at many of DC’s top jazz venues including Blues Alley, Twins Jazz, Westminster Presbyterian, the Atlas Performing Arts Center, Jazz at the Garden, the Mansion at Strathmore, and the Takoma Park JazzFest, to name just a few. She has toured both domestically and internationally as a member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, and often performs with the National Symphony Orchestra at concerts at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and on the orchestra’s nationally televised PBS holiday specials.

Leigh is a gifted arranger whose work is in the libraries of the SJMO, DIVA, the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, the DC-area premier military jazz ensembles, and college and professional jazz ensembles and brass quintets throughout the country. A number of her arrangements can be heard on recordings by DIVA, including her original composition “East Coast Andy,” the opening track on The DIVA Jazz Orchestra 25th Anniversary Project (2018). Other arranging credits include horn section writing for recordings by Chuck Brown and Eva Cassidy; and orchestrations for the critically acclaimed show Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life.

Leigh Pilzer playing baritone saxophone at the Newport Jazz Festival
Photo by Fairfield HamletHub

Leigh holds a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Composition and Arranging from the Berklee College of Music and Master’s degrees in Jazz Studies and Saxophone Performance from The University of Maryland, College Park. She is a candidate for the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Saxophone Performance with a jazz emphasis at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Leigh has served on the faculties of the University of Maryland, Towson University, and George Mason University, where she has taught Jazz Theory, Jazz Arranging, Jazz History, and Fundamentals of Rock, Blues, and Jazz.

Leigh’s debut CD Strunkin’, recorded live at the Washington Women in Jazz Festival, was released in late 2016.

“She is her own player, engaging in her own right and successfully so as this recording illustrates.” —Robert Rusch, Cadence Magazine

“She improvises with fluency and panache.” —CapitalBop

“Gruff and punchy, keeping to the low end, Pilzer’s got plenty to say.” —Michael J. West, Washington CityPaper