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Oregon Symphony Conductor Norman Leyden Dies At 96

Long-time Oregon Symphony conductor, Norman Leyden has died at the age of 96.

Norman Leyden

Norman Leyden

John Rudoff

Leyden retired from the symphony in 2004 after 29 years as associate conductor. 

His first professional work was as bass clarinetist with the New Haven Symphony in the 1930s. 

He spent five years in the military and served as arranger with Glenn Miller’s Air Force Band in England and France.

He was also the music director of the Jackie Gleason Show and wrote the score for the $64,000 Question.

Norman Leyden performs a duet with Pink Martini’s China Forbes.

Norman Leyden performs a duet with Pink Martini’s China Forbes.

John Rudoff

Pink Martini pianist, Thomas Lauderdale says Leyden was the reason he moved back to Portland. He says Leyden even played clarinet on their hit Hang On Little Tomato.

“I’ll never forget the day he came into the studio. Our engineer Dave Freedlander was totally scared of him because he kept kicking the microphone away. Away and Dave was totally in awe but also terrified. Here was this great man kicking the microphone.”

Leyden received Oregon’s Governor’s Arts Award in 1993.

Press release from the Oregon Symphony




(PORTLAND, Ore.) – Norman Leyden, Laureate Associate Conductor of the Oregon Symphony died today at the age of 96.

Oregon Symphony President and CEO Scott Showalter said, “Norman was one of the closest members of the Oregon Symphony family. While we mourn his loss, we also celebrate his life and incredible contribution to the arts.”

Mr. Leyden initiated the Oregon Symphony’s  Pops concert series, one of the most successful in the nation, in 1970. “For 34 seasons as the Pops Musical Director, Norman charmed standing-room-only audiences with his warmth and musicality,” Showalter said. “His talents were revered far beyond our stage. He, his clarinet and his fine musical arrangements will be remembered by many for a long, long while.”

The musicians, board, and staff of the Oregon Symphony send their heartfelt condolences to his family and legion of fans throughout Portland and the U.S. The Symphony plans to honor his memory at its Waterfront Concert on August 28.


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Norman Leyden 1917-2014