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GAIL WHITE Leonardi's legend lives on in Air Force band



Published: Fri, November 16, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Many of you may remember a column I wrote several months ago about Youngstown State University music professor and jazz legend, Tony Leonardi.

I wrote of the incredible splash this man's love of music has made on generations of his student musicians and how his impact on them has rippled across the globe as they share the joy of jazz.

At the time of the printing of the piece, Tony was struggling with pancreatic cancer.

He has since died.

Yet, as with every great legacy, the ripples of his life live on.

Hearing of the death of his beloved teacher, Dave Rivello, a graduate of Struthers High School and student of Tony's at YSU, reacted to his grief by doing what he does best -- composing.

He called his tune "Elegy." It was played at Tony's funeral -- a personal, musical tribute to a great man of music.

"I tried to capture the wonderful moments I had with him as a teacher and a friend," Dave said in explaining his music. "It is slow, gentle, pretty and optimistic."

Dave, now living in Rochester, N.Y., was unable to attend the funeral. The tune was played by fellow musician friends.

Moved: Shortly after the funeral, Dave received a phone call from a YSU alumni who had attended the funeral.

Tim Leahey, a former Leonardi student at YSU, had been greatly moved by the composition.

"I thought it was a beautiful ballad ... a kind of tune that gives you goosebumps," Tim said."

He had an idea for the composition.

For the past eight years, Tim has been performing with some of the finest musicians in the country in a U.S. Air Force band called Airmen of Note.

The band plays at presidential inaugurations, White House events, various Air Force occasions and global tours.

Tim is honored to have been chosen as one of 18 to be a part of this auspicious band. Yet, as a student of Tony's, he could expect nothing less of himself.

"He was a great teacher," he said.

Tim was so moved by Dave's tribute to their beloved teacher, he wanted the Airmen to play the song.

Commissioned: After much deliberation, the U.S. Air Force commissioned Dave to create an arrangement of "Elegy" for the Airmen of Note and featuring Tim on the fluegelhorn.

Dave has composed songs for many great jazz artists but says he was thrilled with the Airmen opportunity.

"I hadn't had a chance to write for them before," he explained. "I was thrilled to get the call."

There was a point in the process when Dave and Tim were uncertain the commission would be granted.

"With the events of Sept. 11, we weren't sure if we would proceed." Dave said. There was talk the funds would be diverted for other purposes.

But the commission was granted, and Dave went to work arranging the piece.

Boardman concert: This wonderful tribute can be heard at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Boardman High School Center for the Performing Arts as the Airmen of Note make a stop in the Valley.

"In the eight years I have been with the Airmen, this is the closest we have been to Youngstown," Tim said.

Tim is responsible for the stop in the area. It is a rare occasion not to be missed.

While our nation pays tribute to the lives lost Sept. 11, a song of tribute has risen out of New York and been commissioned from Washington, D.C., to be played by our nation's finest.

"Elegy" cannot be played, however, without mention of Youngstown, its great teacher who made a splash and his students who are spreading his legacy to the world.

XThe Airmen of Note performance is free. The public is encouraged to attend.

gwhite@vindy.com




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