TONY LEONARDI, 62 YSU professor, director dies
Tony Leonardi was known for bringing Dana School of Music's jazz program to national recognition.
The music has ended for Tony Leonardi, whose love of jazz measured out to national acclaim for Youngstown State University.
Leonardi, 62, founder of jazz studies at YSU's Dana School of Music, died of pancreatic cancer Wednesday at his home in Poland.
"The Dana School of Music has lost a master teacher and outstanding musician with the passing of Tony Leonardi," Ted Perkins, interim director of Dana School of Music, said today.
"His successes at Dana are legendary, and his students are very much devoted to him. ... Under his guidance, the Dana jazz program developed a national reputation and a tradition of excellence."
His life: Leonardi grew up in Syracuse, N.Y. As a young man, he served in the military, then attended Ithaca College in New York before launching his music career. He played in a theater restaurant in New York City for such stars as Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr. and Tony Bennett.
Leonardi toured the United States and Europe with various jazz groups, including his own quintet. He had played with Woody Herman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and other greats of the Big Band era.
Leonardi enrolled as a student at Dana in 1968. He was band director at Poland Junior High and Canfield Middle schools before he was hired full-time at YSU in 1979.
Contributions: Leonardi brought a host of renowned performers to YSU to work with students. Among them were Chuck Mangione, Eddie Daniels, Joanne Brackeen and Clark Terry. A number of Leonardi's students have also become successful jazz musicians and teachers.
Regionally, Leonardi performed with symphonies in Youngstown, Erie and Greenville; the Kenley Players Orchestra in Warren; and Warren Chamber Orchestra.
Leonardi received two YSU Distinguished Professor Awards, first in 1990 for teaching and the second one last April for university service. He retired May 18 and was named professor emeritus by the university.
Students and colleagues saluted Leonardi for his tough but passionate teaching style in a piece by Vindicator columnist Gail White, published June 20.
"A large part of my success is due to the high quality of students that I have been blessed with; quality not only in terms of talent, but quality in terms of who they are," Leonardi had said.
Leonardi leaves his wife, Andrea; a son, Christopher, of Cortland; a daughter, Paula, a student at University of Akron; and two stepdaughters, Caroline and Stephanie Tourteau, both in Florida.
Calling hours are anticipated Sunday at Cunningham Funeral Home in Poland. The funeral is being planned for Monday at St. Paul Church in New Middletown.