Born in Kyiv, Ukraine, Yuriy Leonovich immigrated with his family to the United States, where he began studying cello and composition. Leonovich's cello teachers include Stephen Geber, Robert De Maine and Marcy Chanteaux. He studied composition with James Hartway. Leonovich received his Doctorate of Musical Arts from the Cleveland Institute of Music.
Leonovich is an active proponent of Eastern European, Spanish, Soviet-era, as well as new music. He has collaborated with Kimbo Ishii-Eto in the Cleveland premiere of Khachaturian's Concerto-Rhapsody and with Gary Ciepluch in the Cleveland premiere of De Meij's Casanova. As an active recitalist, Leonovich frequently collaborates with his wife Kristin Leonovich and has performed on many occasions with Daniil Trifonov and Elizabeth De Mio.
His compositions and arrangements have been played in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia/Oceania by Massimo La Rosa, Brian Thornton, the Spirale Piano Trio, the New Zealand viola ensemble Viola Viva: The Next Generation and others. In 2010 the Cleveland Orchestra's principal trombone Massimo La Rosa recorded Leonovich's arrangement of Rossini's Barber of Seville overture. This recording, which appears on La Rosa's "Cantando" album, marked Leonovich's commercial-recording debut. La Rosa frequently takes the arrangement on tour to Italy and South America. Leonovich's arrangement of Puccini's Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut is now available on La Rosa's "Sempre Espressivo" album. The Rusalka Fantasie, which has been performed internationally by various Cleveland Orchestra members, is featured on Brian Thornton and Spencer Myer's Kol Nidrei and Beyond: Lev's Story - a tribute to Lev Aronson.
In 2006 Leonovich completed Tchaikovsky's Cello Concerto. This grand project was made possible with the help of Brett Langston, who generously provided sketches and ideas for the piece. The article about this project can be found at www.tchaikovsky-research.org. In addition to completing the Tchaikovsky Concerto, Leonovich has arranged Stravinsky's Rite of Spring for cello octet and Bach's Fifth Solo Suite and Mozart String Quartet, K. 589 for cello quartet. Following his vision to expand the standard cello repertoire, Leonovich wrote a research document on Gaspar Cassadó's cello concertos.
Currently, Leonovich holds the Assistant Cello Professor position at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC. He plays a cello made by Michael Köberling in 2016 and a bow by a Roger Zabinski, which Leonovich commissioned. His tailpiece was designed by Kenneth Kuo.