|Birth name||Harold Leon Breeden|
October 3, 1921|
Guthrie, Oklahoma, US
|Died||August 11, 2010
Dallas, Texas, US
|Occupations||Educator, musician, composer|
|Associated acts||One O'Clock Lab Band|
Harold Leon Breeden (b. October 3, 1921, Guthrie, Oklahoma; d. August 11, 2010, Dallas, Texas), known as Leon Breeden, was a jazz studies educator at the collegiate level, a classical and jazz clarinetist, a saxophonist, a prolific composer and arranger, a music clinician, and jazz festival judge. The Associated Press release of Breeden's death referred to him as, "legendary director of the University of North Texas' jazz program who made its 'One O'Clock Lab Band' internationally famous."
Career as jazz education pioneer
Breeden was the chairman of Jazz Studies — and director of the One O'Clock Lab Band — at the University of North Texas College of Music from 1959 to 1981. From early in his tenure at North Texas, Breeden led its Jazz Studies division to rapid rise in international prominence.
The One O'Clock Lab Band is the highest level of nine big bands at the College of Music. The College of Music is a comprehensive music school with the largest enrollment of any music institution accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music and the first in the world to offer a degree in jazz studies at the collegiate level.
Breeden's tenure at the University of North Texas College of Music
Breeden took the One O'clock Lab Band to London, Paris, Portugal, Russia, Mexico, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland. The band played in most major cities throughout the U.S. and the Spoleto Music Festival.
Breeden’s former students include Marvin Stamm, Lou Marini, Lyle Mays, Galen Jeter, Sparky Koerner, Marc Johnson, Byron Parks, Paul Guerrero, Lanny Steele, Dee Barton, Neal Ramsay, Jim Riggs and Herb Ellis. There are more than 600 recordings of the jazz band’s performances in the North Texas School of Music archives.
Breeden and Jazz Studies, particularly the One O'Clock Lab Band, elevated the academic notoriety of the university on an international scale, perhaps more so than any other person or program at the university in its history.
Entire career overview
In 1959, M.E. "Gene" Hall, Founding Director of Jazz Studies at the University of North Texas College of Music, urged and recommended Breeden to replace Hall as Director of Jazz Studies, where Breeden remained until his retirement in 1984.
A classically-trained clarinetist, Breeden also played saxophone and studied composition and arranging at TCU. He was a teaching assistant under Don Gillis, Director of Bands at Texas Christian University, whom he later worked with in New York from 1950–1952, serving as his assistant.
Gillis was the Producer of the NBC Symphony, conducted by Arturo Toscanini. During this time, Breeden met with and wrote arrangements for Arthur Fiedler, conductor of the Boston Pops. It was Gillis who recommended Breeden for work. In 1950, upon hearing his first arrangements for the group, Fiedler offered Breeden a permanent spot as the staff writer and arranger for the orchestra, but with an ill father, Breeden declined the highly prized offer and moved back to Texas. Upon returning to Texas, Breeden worked as music coordinator for KXAS-TV in Fort Worth— then known as WBAP-TV.
- 1945 — Bachelor of Arts degree, Texas Christian University
- 1948 — Master of Music Education, Texas Christian University
- 1944–49 — Director of Bands at Texas Christian University
- 1950–52 — Composition and Arranging Assistant to Don Gillis in New York
- 1953–59 — Director of Bands at Grand Prairie High School
- 1959–81 — Director of Jazz Studies at the University of North Texas College of Music and Musical Director of the One O'Clock Lab Band
- 1981–84 — Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of North Texas College of Music
|1965||The University of North Texas student body honored Breeden with 'Fessor Graham Award, the highest honor bestowed annually by students to a faculty member for outstanding and unselfish service to students beyond the call of duty|
|1976||The University of North Texas recognized Breeden as an Outstanding Professor|
|1981||By unanimous vote, the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate, in the 67th Legislature, proclaimed May 3, 1981, as "Leon Breeden Day"|
|1985||Breeden was inducted into the International Association for Jazz Education Hall of Fame|
|1987||In a surprise One O'Clock Lab Band reunion, more than 400 of Breeden's former students – many of whom are formidable artists, performers, and educators – traveled from all parts of the world honor him|
|1995||The Texas Chapter (Alpha Chapter) of Phi Beta Mu, an international bandmasters fraternity, inducted Breeden into the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame (note: neither the Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Mu nor the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame is affiliated with the Texas Band Masters Association)|
|1990||The Dallas Jazz Orchestra produced an Album honoring Breeden, titled, Thank You, Leon|
|2001||Texas Christian University awarded Breeden an honorary doctor of letters degree|
|2003||The North Texas Jazz Festival established the Leon Breeden Award for the best middle school or high school big band|
|2009||The University of North Texas awarded Breeden with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree|
Breeden used his first given name, "Harold," only while serving in the Army. When he was three years of age his parents moved to Wichita Falls, TX, where he grew up and graduated from high school. He attended Texas Wesleyan College in Ft. Worth on a scholarship and later transferred to Texas Christian University where he completed both his Bachelor’s and Master's degrees. While doing graduate work at Columbia University in New York City, he studied clarinet with Sir Reginald Kell, an internationally acclaimed clarinetist who had immigrated to the U.S. in 1948. Benny Goodman began studies with Kell in 1949.
- 1945 — Leon Breeden married Bonna Joyce McKee (b. Oct 25, 1926, Bynum, TX; d. Sep 7, 1988, Denton, TX), whom he had met while working on his masters degree at TCU. They had three children:
- June 18, 1990 (Denton, TX) — Leon remarried a childhood sweetheart:
- Bennye Wayne (née "Nobles," name from former marriage, "Reid," – "Ms. Billy Ray Reid," b. Dec 24, 1921, Wise County, TX; d. Apr 29, 2010, Denton, TX). Breeden and Bennye met while in the fourth grade in Wichita Falls, TX. From Bennye's marriage with Billy Ray Reid, aka "Slick" (d. Aug 22, 2007), Leon has stepchildren:
Videos Honoring Leon Breeden (1921–2010)
- Jazz educator Leon Breeden dies at 88, Aug 11, 2010, The Associated Press.
- HEADS Data – Special Report, 2009-10, National Association of Schools of Music Note: For more than 20 years, North Texas Music enrollment has tracked closely to that of Indiana. Institutions that include Berklee, Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music are not among the 627 NASM members. One non-NASM music school has a student enrollment larger than North Texas – Berklee.
North Texas Indiana 2006-07 1,649 1,638 2007-08 1,659 1,633 2008-09 1,608 1,554 2009-10 1,635 1,557
- Colin M. Mason, A Comparative and Historical Survey of Four Seminal Figures in the History of Jazz Education, DMA Dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin (c 2005)
- John Murphy,"Leon Breeden will receive an honorary doctorate from UNT on Aug. 14, 2009" UNT Division of Jazz Studies website, August 10, 2009
- Bill Cherry, Leon Breeden, The Man from Oklahoma ... , Texas Escapes Online Magazine, March 7, 2009
- Thom Hunter, Bonna Breeden: She's Happy as a Homemaker, Denton Record Chronicle, pg. 1C, April 7, 1977
- Leon Breeden, Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame, Alpha Chapter, Phi Beta Mu
- "Leon Breeden, former director of UNT jazz program, dies" Dallas Morning News, August 12, 2010