Bride-to-be tickled by surprise from Modesto musicians, friends

jfarrow@modbee.comJune 18, 2013 

MODESTO -- As the orchestra launched into the wedding march, Katye Leonard stood alone, wearing a tiara and veil.

Fiancé Joel Maki was nowhere around.

But she was OK with that. In fact, she was beaming.

After all, the wedding was days away. And Leonard was being surprised by colleagues and musician friends from the Modesto Symphony Orchestra, Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra, MoBand and the Gottschalk Music Center band.

Tuesday morning, more than a dozen musicians were on the lawn of the orchestra's 13th Street office — bows at the ready, pursed lips on mouthpieces and reeds. They sprang into action as Leonard was lured outside on thepretense of having to help lug in some donated filing cabinets. "Conducting" them was a cardboard cutout of Music Director David Lockington.

"You're all hired!" Leonard called out to the group from the office steps as the musicians finished their serenade.

"And, surprise, there's no filing cabinets!" someone called back.

The "ringleader" of the tribute was Amy Sullivan, manager of operations for the MSO. Friends wanted to do something for Leonard, and "we figure, go big or go home," she said. So, on Friday, calls went out to musicians from the groups and, because there'd be no time to rehearse, "we picked something supersimple," said Sullivan: Richard Wagner's "Bridal Chorus," better known as "Here Comes the Bride."

Leonard has just finished her third season with the MSO and wears many hats, from performing to setting up the orchestra's music library to conducting the youth orchestra and more. Tuesday was a way of showing her how much she's appreciated.

"Katye puts her heart and soul into everything she does," Sullivan said.

"She's really a rock star, and she has a heart of gold," added Gottschalk Music Center co-owner Nicky Richardson, who was in the impromptu orchestra.

So, how did Leonard, 26, not see or hear all the musicians pulling up, setting up and warming up outside the small office? She was working in the basement.

Still, she had a hunch something was up.

"I knew the staff was acting funny," she said. "They told me I had to be here at this specific time because we were inheriting some filing cabinets that needed to be moved in."

Still, she wasn't expecting the loving gift of music bestowed upon her when she stepped outside.

"I'm so lucky," she said, "to be surrounded by talented people."

Bee local news editor Deke Farrow can be reached at or (209) 578-2327.

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