Dr. LEON BREEDEN
1921 - 2010
View Funeral Service
Monday, August 16, 2001, almost fifty-one years to the day from when Dr. Leon Breeden was hired by North Texas State College as its professor of jazz music, several hundred gathered at the Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas to celebrate his life. Dr. Breeden passed away on August 11th just two months shy of his 89th birthday.
For the many thousands who Dr. Breeden taught, and the tens of thousands who heard his famous University of North Texas One O'clock Lab Band, as it performed throughout the U.S. and many foreign countries, I asked his close friend and colleague, James Riggs, if he would let me publish the eulogy he delivered.
Here are Jim's thoughts:
On this day celebrating Leon Breeden's life, I am deeply honored to be the spokesperson for thousands of Leon Breeden's former students.
As we all know, under Dr. Breeden's guidance, the University of North Texas Jazz Division rose to prominence as an unquestioned leader in university jazz programs with the One O'Clock Lab Band being its centerpiece. Not only was Dr. Breeden a music pioneer who brought respectability to jazz studies, he was also an outstanding teacher combining strict teaching of the fundamentals of jazz, with an open encouragement for original jazz composing and arranging.
Dr. Breeden has been a mentor, colleague and close friend of mine. I would not be standing here today, if it were not for Leon Breeden.
Every UNT jazz student (and there were thousands) contributed to make the legend of Leon Breeden and the legend of the internationally famous One O'Clock Lab Band. As new students we wanted to be a part of it and had to convince our parents why we wanted to move to the remote cowboy country of Denton, Texas.
Every UNT jazz student (whether they were in the One O'clock Band or not) actually played a part in the "Legend of Leon Breeden". He was compassionate man whose compassion included all people, all UNT students. For instance, Dr. Breeden gave important One O'Clock jobs to individuals specifically notin the One O'Clock Band so that they could be a part of the One O'Clock dream.
Dr. Breeden planted a seed in each of us to venture forth into the world utilizing the inspiration and spirit of jazz music. As a young man, Leon himself had been inspired by the beautiful music emanating from Benny Goodman's clarinet bell....(and then, there were all those professional big bands).
It turns out that music is simply the human spirit reacting naturally to the miracle of the overtone series and (OK, Ed Soph) the element of rhythm and there you have it, jazz. The spirit is in all of us. Music is a beautiful miracle, a wonder that is given to us as part of life itself and the axioms of the solar system.
For musicians the spirit emulates deep down in the pit of our stomachs and it begins with a seed planted by other musicians demonstrating their love of the music. Leon Breeden was the teacher that planted seeds in all of his students, all of us. I am very pleased to have been one of them.
Leon Breeden earned two Doctorate degrees, an honorary "Doctor of Letters" from Texas Christian University in 2001, and in 2009 from the University of North Texas.
Dr. Breeden spent most of the 1950s as a high school band director at Grand Prairie High School. Grand Prairie School District named their recent new Music Building the "Leon Breeden Music Hall". Dr. Breeden was very pleased at being presented this honor.
Dr. Breeden was an unusual man who stuck by his guns and realized his dreams and challenges from day to day.
Congratulations Dr. Leon Breeden for your many great lifetime achievements, you had a great run.
We will now close with the tribute band performed by Leon Breeden's former students; Chris McGuire, saxophone and clarinet, Jim Riggs, saxophone, Mike Steinel, trumpet, Rodney Booth, trumpet, Dan Haerle, piano, Ed Soph, drumset and Lynn Seaton, bass.
Regents Professor Emeritus
University of North Texas
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