Leon Charles Bradley, 78 of Branson, MO died March 6, 2017 at the Hospice House of Kansas City. A proud husband, father & grandfather, he is survived by his wife of 48 years, Mary Elizabeth, brother Eugene, sons Kyle, Karl & Nathan, daughter Shannon and eight grandchildren.
Born and raised in Battle Creek, Michigan, he was the son of Leon H. and Sigrid Anderson Bradley. He graduated from Battle Creek High School in 1956 and began his career as a professional musician, playing trombone on tour with Woody Herman at 17. He met his first wife, Betty Harper in 1956. They married in 1959, had two children and divorced in 1968. He completed a Bachelor’s from Michigan State University in 1961 and shortly after toured with the Stan Kenton Orchestra. He returned to his alma mater as a graduate assistant earning a Master’s degree in 1967. He did postgraduate work at Michigan State University, University of Oklahoma and the University of Wisconsin.
He met his wife, Mary Elizabeth at Minot State College (now Minot State University) in North Dakota where they taught in the music department. They married in December of 1968 at her parents’ home in Oklahoma. Their honeymoon took them to Yosemite National Park, the Bracebridge dinner with host Ansel Adams and Pasadena, California where he led the Minot State Marching Band in the Tournament of Roses Parade. In 1969, they joined the faculty of the School of the Ozarks (now College of the Ozarks) where he created a music education degree curriculum, started the band program, taught brass instruments and percussion and inspired countless students until his retirement in 1993. In 1995, he accepted a position at the Xian Conservatory of Music in China where he directed chamber music ensembles and founded the first American symphonic band in the country. During retirement Leon was a visiting professor at Southwest Baptist University and taught private lessons in Springfield, Branson and Lebanon High School.
Leon was active in many professional organizations and held honorary memberships in Phi Beta Mu and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. Over the years, he authored numerous articles and other contributions to journals and publications. He was a charter member of the Missouri Jazz Educator’s Association serving as Treasurer for 25 years. His college jazz band performed for the Miss Missouri Pageant for 13 years in Mexico, Missouri. For his expertise and dedicated service to jazz education he was given the “Jess Cole” lifetime achievement award in 2003.
During his career, he remained an active performer with the Springfield Symphony and Regional Opera Orchestra, led the Abou ben Adhem Shrine band and co-founded the Branson Brass Quintet. His clinician and consultant offerings spanned over 50 years on behalf of both the Conn and Selmer/Bach instrument companies.
Leon was active in the community as a member of the Masonic Lodge, Abou ben Adhem Shrine temple, Ducks Unlimited and served as President of the Branson Lions Club. He proudly served on the Branson Adoration Parade Committee for nearly all his years in Branson. He loved his church, serving in many capacities including Jr. Warden and Sub-Deacon. He was very proud of his students and treasured his friends with whom he remained in contact throughout his life.
A memorial service will be held April 3rd at Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church at 10:00 a.m. and graveside service at 2:00 p.m. at Ozarks Memorial Park Cemetery in Branson, Missouri.