ITTA BENA, Miss. — The Mississippi Valley State University community is saddened by the passing of alumnus and longtime former band director Leonard “Chief” Tramiel of Greenwood.
Tramiel died on Saturday. He was 75.
“Mr. Leonard Tramiel is indeed a Valley legend,” said MVSU President Dr. Jerryl Briggs. “He will truly be remembered, loved, and revered by our MVSU family. Many of our alums have shared with me the positive impact that he has had on their careers and lives. We are saddened by his passing, but his lore remains with us. “
A native of Shreveport, La., Tramiel first joined the MVSU family as a student. Upon graduating from The Valley in 1965, Tramiel launched his career as a band director in Fayette, Ala. 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 at Tuscaloosa.
Under his leadership, the Druid band became the first black ensemble to integrate the Alabama Bandmasters Association concert band festival in 1969.
Tramiel retuned 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, Tramiel’s iconic ensembles included Symphonic, Marching, and Varsity Pep Bands, 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 decorated with several awards and much recognition, 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. The man is a legend,” said MVSU Director of University 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.
Tramiel is survived by his two sons, Marvin and Nelrich, and three granddaughters.