Leslie Spalding is a native of Evanston, Illinois, however most of his life has been spent in Panama City, Panama and San Jose, Costa Rica. He began his musical studies in 1974. His mother was reluctant to purchase drums, so he practiced on a rubber pad, chairs and pillows. His persistence paid off, and at the age of 13, he was given his first drumset. Leslie’s move to Panama in his teens allowed him to study Latin rhythms and to experiment with their applications to the drumset. After a hiatus from music due to a 17 year professional basketball career in Costa Rica, Leslie traveled to Spain to study classical percussion. During his stay in Spain, he played with Revolucion Son, African Roots, Grupo Nueva Athenea and the Senegalese group Suñu Galgui
While in New York, Leslie has played with a diverse number of musical projects including the blues group "Blue Rooster Pie", the Carlton Maaia jazz quartet, the reggae bands Tiah, Mission Control and K Genius and the Brethren, the Nightingale Gospel girls directed by Roosevelt Credit and "LIFE". Besides Sangha Tierra, Leslie's current projects are the Sade Tribute Band "Soul of Paradise" and the Santana Tribute band "Abrazos". Leslie is also Sam Waymon's (Nina Simone's brother) drummer. He also performed in the "Pasión Latina" show with Placido Domingo Jr. and Luz del Alba Rubio in 2015.
Leslie’s drumming style is deeply rooted in world music genres and his exposure to many international styles has uniquely influenced his approach to drumming. Leslie lists his musical influences to be: Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, Ruben Blades, Michael Franti, The Fania All Stars, Chick Corea, Danilo Perez, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Prince, Led Zeppelin and Sting. Drummers and percussionists that have influenced him are: Buddy Rich, Tito Puente, Ralph Irizarry, Carter Beauford, Giovanni Hidalgo, Horacio Hernandez, Dave Weckl, Tapado Vargas and Renato Thoms.
When not playing music, Leslie can be found building his non profit organization In Lak'Ech, teaching meditation and mindfulness, teaching Spanish and coaching volleyball, basketball and lacrosse at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in Riverdale.
Leslie supports In Lak'Ech Inc.