H. Lloyd Leno
1925 - 1998
H. Loyd Leno spent most of his career in higher education, teaching at four Adventist Colleges. Although his primary identity was that of a conductor of bands and brass choirs, he was also a vocalist who enjoyed singing in or conducting choral groups. A brass performer, he particularly enjoyed playing the trombone and tuba. He gained international recognition for his research on the playing of brass instruments.
Lloyd was born in Willa, North Dakota, one of eight children and the second of three sons of George and Barbara Leno, both descendants of German immigrants from Russia. Music was an important activity in a family where the parents were organists and everyone played an instrument or sang.
As a child, he was hospitalized many times between ages nine and thirteen for osteomyleitis. It was during one of these stays that he became fascinated with the trombone after he heard a patient play the instrument. After the family moved to Oregon when he was sixteen, his older brother gave him a trombone, and after learning to play it, he joined the local high school band in his sophomore year. He also sang in the high school choir.
When Lloyd transferred to the academy at Walla Walla College, now University, he played in the college band while finishing his last two years of high school. At the beginning of his sophomore year in college, Harold Mitzlefelt assumed direction of the college band and orchestra. His leadership inspired Leno, who began thinking about the idea of teaching. However, since the college was not offering a degree in band instruments at that time, he chose to pursue a pre-dental program.
Immediately following graduation from WWC in 1948, with a major in Spanish and minors in religion and chemistry, he accepted a position at Portland Union Academy (now Portland Adventist Academy) where he taught Spanish and conducted the band and choir. Although his intent was to teach at PUA long enough to establish residency for entrance into the dental school at the University of Oregon, he found music teaching so satisfying that he returned to WWC to obtain additional music training at the end of the year.
Following two years of study and teaching part-time at nearby Walla Walla Valley Academy, he returned to PUA for two more years. He had married Donna Hudson in June 1951, at the end of his stay at WWC.
Leno began his college teaching career in 1953 at Union College, where he conducted the band and orchestra and taught related classes for seven years. At the end of his first year at UC, he completed an MA in music education at Columbia University Teachers College, a graduate degree he had been pursuing in the summers.
His studies at CUTC included lessons on tuba and trombone with nationally famous William Bell and with Davis Shuman, both teachers at the Juilliard School of Music. His graduate recital was in conducting, an area in which he had distinguished himself by twice winning the annual CUTC Conducting Competition. He would do additional graduate music study over the next few years in brass instruments and begin course work towards a doctorate at Indiana University.
Leno completed an A.Mus.D. at the University of Arizona in 1970. His work there included concentrations in music education administration, conducting, and study in French horn and trombone. His dissertation, "Lip Vibration Characteristics of Selected Trombone Players," was an analysis of the brass embouchure through the use of high-speed motion picture photography and a transparent mouthpiece.
The findings of his research were a major breakthrough in understanding how the brass embouchure works. It was rewritten as an article and printed in The Instrumentalist, primary national publication for band and orchestra directors, and in the Brass Bulletin, an international magazine published in three languages. Some of that research would subsequently be used in books by two other authors.
Leno had accepted a position as band director and teacher of conducting and brass at Walla Walla College in 1960. Earlier studies in percussion, taken while at CUTC, and experiences in playing in brass groups at Indiana University had led to a serious interest in these areas of performance, and a desire to create a group which could perform music written for brass and percussion. Accordingly, in the early 1970's, Leno established such a group at WWC.
Under his leadership the WWC Brass Choir and Percussion Ensemble became known throughout the Northwest and within Adventist colleges for its accomplishments and international travel. It was one of the first Adventist music groups to be sponsored by Friendship Ambassadors, a group which organized tours for U.S. ensembles to Eastern Europe, then under control of the Soviet Union, for the purpose of creating better relationships between the East and West. Leno and his groups took three of these trips over a period of seven years, including to Romania in 1977, Poland in 1979, and Austria and Hungary in 1984.
In 1985, after completing 25 years at WWC, the longest tenure of any music teacher at that time, Leno accepted an offer from Antillian Union College in Puerto Rico to chair their music department. Three years later, he accepted a music professorship at Dominican Adventist University in the Dominican Republic.
While there he enjoyed one of his most gratifying musical experiences when was appointed director of the Sacred Music Society of Santa Domingo, a choir primarily composed of English speaking people. Participants included professionals in the city, members of the U.S. Embassy, and missionaries of various denominations, an ensemble including nine different nationalities. The group's performance of the Messiah, parts II and III, in 1990, was highly successful and led to an invitation from the Ambassador for Leno to visit the U.S. Embassy. He retired in the spring of 1990, having taught for over 40 years, to the Pacific Northwest.
Leno continued to teach and to work with brass groups until his death in 1998. He taught percussion at Portland Adventist Elementary School, located near PAA, where he had started his career, and established the Advent Trombone Choir in 1991, an ensemble based in the Portland area. Under his leadership it toured in Oregon, Washington, and California and, in 1995, traveled to Europe, where it played seven times, including two performances at the General Conference session in Utrecht.
Leno was deeply interested in the physiological, psychological, and spiritual effects of music. His study led to concern over the importance of reasoned and wise choices about which he penned a series of four articles titled "Music - Its Far-reaching Effects," which appeared in the church's primary publication, the Review and Herald in 1976. Another article on music in worship, "Music and the Gospel," was printed in the Spring 1996 issue of Notes, an IAMA publication. Leno was working on a book on sacred music at the time of his death.
The Lenos had two sons, Michael and Douglas, both of whom are musically active. Michael completed a degree in theology and music at WWC in 1978. Donna and Lloyd were living in the Portland, Oregon, area at the time of his death at age 72. Aware of his approaching death, Leno wrote the following to one of his former students a month before he died:
I regard myself as a steward of God's gift of music. It has been my life, and I remain committed to offering Him the best and most truthful music that I possibly can.
Sources: Interviews with Lloyd Leno, 26 April 1991, and Donna Leno, 2003; Faculty records on file in the music department at Walla Walla University; Copies of "Educational and Biographical Resume," "Life Sketch," and autobiographical sketch, "My Life with Brass and Percussion," all dated August1998, provided by Donna Leno in 2003; Interview with Lester Leno, 2007; 1930 U.S. Federal Census; personal knowledge.