Leonard 'Chief' Tramiel

Leonard “Chief” Tramiel, who was director of bands at Mississippi Valley State University for more than 30 years, died Saturday at 75.

Leonard “Chief” Tramiel, a longtime Mississippi Valley State University band director, was a “Valley legend” and “will truly be remembered, loved, and revered by our MVSU family,” MVSU’s president, Dr. Jerryl Briggs, said in a statement.

Mr. Tramiel, a resident of Greenwood, passed away Saturday. He was 75.

“Many of our alums have shared the positive impact that he has had on their careers and lives,” Briggs said. “We are saddened by his passing, but his lore remains with us. “

A native of Shreveport, Louisiana, Mr. Tramiel first joined the MVSU family as a student. Upon graduating in 1965, he launched his career as a band director in Fayette, Alabama. He then continued his career as band director of Druid High School in Tuscaloosa as he earned a master’s degree from the University of Alabama.

Under his leadership, the Druid band became the first black ensemble to integrate the Alabama Bandmasters Association concert band festival in 1969.

Mr. Tramiel returned to MVSU in 1973 as the director of university bands. Known for his energetic spirit, visionary leadership and unassuming humor, he led the “Mean Green Marching Machine” for more than 30 years, becoming Valley’s longest-tenured band director to date.

While at MVSU, Mr. Tramiel’s ensembles included symphonic, marching and varsity pep bands and the “New Jack Swing” floor show band as well as trombone, euphonium and tuba ensembles.

In addition, he served as the chapter sponsor for Kappa Kappa Psi/Tau Beta Sigma Honorary Band Fraternity and Sorority.  

Following a successful career that included several awards and other recognition, Mr. Tramiel retired from MVSU in 2013. However, his influence and spirit continue to guide the Mean Green Marching Machine.

“When you talk about SWAC bands, Tramiel’s name definitely makes the list,” said current MVSU Director of University Bands Kenneth Milton, who worked with Tramiel for several years, in a recent interview.

“I’ve always had a lot of respect for him, even before I became employed with the university,” he added.

Mr. Tramiel is survived by his two sons, Marvin and Nelrich, and three granddaughters.

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