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One O’Clock Lab Band: Out of the Shadows and into the Light

by on October 24, 2010

The One O'Clock Lab Band performs with Duke Ellington at the White House, under the direction of Leon Breeden.

The One O’clock Lab Band: Out of the Shadows and into the Light!

How many bands can claim a track record that trails back over 80 years? And how many college bands can boast 6 Grammy nominations and close to 200 notable alumni?

Only the best students make it through Fall auditions to join the coveted chair with the One O’clock Lab Band.  The tradition of holding auditions and taking only the top players is only a portion of the legacy that former director, Leon Breeden, added to the history pages of the Lab Band.  Mr. Breeden passed away this August but it was his program that brought the jazz studies out of the shadows of disguising itself as dance music and on the yellow brick road to international recognition.

When he arrived at the College of Music in 1959, he walked into a world that could not accept Jazz as a degree program.  In a video posted on YouTube by an admirer, he recalls receiving phone calls in the middle of the night condemning him to hell for teaching kids jazz.  It was an era that believed that jazz would cause young people to “do dope” and a time when the only place you could listen to jazz was in some very shady night clubs.  Places as Morris Martin, UNT Head Music Librarian recalls in Passion for Jazz, “not exactly the kind of places you would take your mom to.” Even the faculty addressed the President’s office to request “kicking” jazz out of the university’s music program.

Photo by Robin Gansle

All of the controversy did cause Dr. Breeden to consider throwing out the white flag.  Luckily for the University, however, he did not deter.   Under his direction, the One O’clock Lab Band traveled the world but, not before performing with Duke Ellington at the White House. A performance recalled by Breeden, which took place without a rehearsal but came out perfectly.

The One O’Clock Lab Band continues to surpass its “near-mythic status”. Each year the Lab Band introduces new Cats and each year the students write the music for the annual recording.  Last year’s recording, Lab 2009 landed the 2009 Cats at the Grammy’s this past January.

Want to be a cool Jazz Cat and listen to the One O’Clock Lab Band? Well now there’s an App for that! And if you have an Android, don’t worry there is one coming your way soon.  There is also a sound cloud where you can listen to a few full tracks or sample tracks of past recordings as well as, the blog shed, director Steve Wiest’s Blog “about all things One O’Clock”.

There is also the option of hearing them in person, the good old fashioned way.  The One O’Clock Lab Band will be performing their 50th Annual Fall Concert at the Murchison Performing Arts Center on November 23 at 8 p.m.  Lucky for all of us, this IS a place where we can walk in, arm in arm, with our mother!

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