the Norman Leyden Story PROJECT

The Norman Leyden Project



Norman Leyden (photo courtesy Leyden Family)

David Boe writes about how this project was inspired:

The inspiration for the project was an unusual one. Norman Leyden and I had the same barber. It was at a local hair cutting salon that the idea for a biography first came about. When I mentioned to my regular stylist that I was a musician, she began talking about Norman Leyden. Suki had been Dr. Leyden's stylist for the last few years, and he always had amazing stories to tell. He had worked with everyone, she said; from playing with and arranging music for great Glenn Miller band during World War II to working with some of the top entertainers of all time, including many of the most famous people from the big band era. As she cut his hair, he would regale her with amazing stories from a career in music that spanned some seventy years. 

"He's ninety-one years old, and he still plays his clarinet every day," Suki said.

"I wonder if anyone is writing this stuff down," I wondered aloud. "Do you know if he has a biographer?"

Over the next couple of years, I probably saw Suki a half dozen times. She promised to mention my idea to Mr. Leyden, and a highly informal and improbable line of communication was opened. 

Still, there remained a reluctance on my part. Surely, someone far more qualified than I would be able to step in and ensure that these great stories would not be lost! 

Enter Ellen Vanderslice, a local singer, composer and fellow band member with the Carroll Raaum Swing Orchestra in Portland, Oregon. When I discussed the idea with her, Ellen shared my appreciation for the project, and brought in the fresh enthusiasm, perspective and drive required to move forward. Ellen encouraged me to make contact with Dr. Leyden, and to my surprise, my inquiries were received very positively.

Together, Ellen and I were fortunate enough to spend many hours with Norman, a man of great integrity, humor and generosity. In sharing with us his unique perspective on some of the most significant moments of his very long, full, and successful life, Norman also conveyed many valuable lessons.

In the fall of 2012 Norman Leyden graciously agreed to a series of personal interviews with David Boe and Ellen Vanderslice. Our intent was write the Norman Leyden story. David Boe, as the lead author, makes the major decisions. Ellen Vanderslice is assisting with project management and logistics.

Norman died on July 23, 2014 at the age of 96. David and Ellen visited him the evening before his death.

We still hope one day to tell the story of Norman's long and musical life, but owing to other commitments, this project has been placed on indefinite hold.

For more information about Norman Leyden, here's a link to a short biography on Wikipedia:




The project team has interviewed a number of people close to Norman Leyden, but we still have many others left to interview.

If you have a Norman Leyden story to share, please let us know!

Click here to e-mail Ellen about participating in the Norman Leyden Story Project.