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20-Nov-2020

Passing of Leonard R. “Skeets” Langley, 17 November, Arizona - USA

Leonard
Leonard AWW is sad to report the passing of Leonard R. “Skeets” Langley. His sister, Dee Langley, said, “My most adorable brother, "Skeets" Langley, passed away in his sleep at his home in Maricopa, Arizona on Tuesday, November 17th, 2020. "Skeets" was a world class musician and accordionist, 1963 Coupe Mondiale winner and he was also a world class brother. I'll miss him forever.

The family of "Skeets" Langley would love for anyone who knew him to be able to get together and remember his remarkable life. With COVID restrictions upon us, we have decided to postpone the celebration in Minneapolis until May 2021. When a date and place is set, you will be informed.

Excerpts from the biography by Mke Sanko: Skeets Langley was inducted into the 2012 Minnesota Music Hall of Fame. He was a virtuoso, side man on uncountable bands, leader, educator, recording artist, composer and musicians union member for more than 57 years.

Leonard R. (Skeets) Langley began accordion lessons at age 6 and continued his lessons for 14 years, the last few years of which were with teacher Larry Malmberg (MMHF Inductee 1997). As he grew up, he won many national championships on his way to participation in the Coupe Mondiale.

To qualify for the 1962 Coupe Mondiale World Accordion Championship (held in Prague, Czechoslovakia) he first had to win his state then national competitions. Winning those, he then represented the USA and the AAA in the 1962 Coupe Mondiale. With about 25-30 contestants, Skeets came in a close second, losing by just 1/2 point, performing Schumann’s “Piano Concerto in A Minor". He received a Silver Medal and a cut glass trophy from the CIA organised Coupe Mondiale. He was only 20 years old at that time.

The following year (1963) at age 21, he was encouraged to go through the process again, first winning state then national competitions, and once again onto the Coupe Mondiale World Competition, that year held in Germany. In 1963, he won the Coupe Mondiale with his performance of Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto #2 in D Minor”, 2nd movement. He received a Gold Medal, trophy and proudly brought the 1963 Coupe Mondiale world title home to the USA.

Skeets graduated from Golden Valley High School in 1960, received his Bachelor of Music in 1965 from Augsburg College, and Masters Degree from MacPhail School of Music in 1966. He worked as an instrumental music teacher from 1966-1999. He spent his entire career with beginning 5th and 6th grade students, serving in 5 or 6 different buildings every week. This resulted in an immense number of beginning students over his 33 plus years, estimated at well over 20,000 students!

Skeets has led many musical groups and was involved in the recording industry. Skandisk, Inc. began their association with Skeets in the early 80’s when Michael and Else Sevig contacted him for his contribution to their first album. “Juleglade” their Christmas album sold thousands of records. The Sevigs subsequently went on to record 7 more albums, all featuring Skeets on the accordion. These recordings, now in CD format, are still a big seller with Skandisk, Inc.

Two interesting side stories about Skeets: As an accordion player at age 12, Skeets father was employed as a meat cutter and had some connections with the Christmann Sausage Company who had a number of retail cutlets. His father was approached by them hoping that they could hire his son to go around to their various retail outlets and entertain the customers during the Holiday Season (for a small stipend) It did not take long for the Musicians Union to find out about this and put a stop to it. He was taking work away from the other union musicians and he would have to join the union if he wanted to continue to play jobs. The administrative personnel at the union office were surprised when this preteen walked in the office announcing he was there to take the test for membership. Skeets was granted membership without any difficulty. As a result, he was an active union musician for over 57 years and a past Director of their board!

Another story was, that Skeets was the lone accordionist accompanying Luciano Pavarotti during his mid 80’s and early 90’s concert tour in Minneapolis. On one occasion, during rehearsals, when Pavarotti’s touring orchestra director attempted to “direct: Skeets in his interpretation of the “Italian Street Song”, Luciano Pavarotti said to his conductor, “Leo, just let the man play.” Obviously, Luciano approved of Skeets ability and presentation of the piece. After the actual St. Paul Civic Center performance, Pavarotti made direct eye contact with Skeets, smiled and said, “Bravo. Bravo!”

From wearing a tuxedo and playing with Cliff Bunzeil and the Golden strings, to Lederhosen on Leon Bonrud’s Bavarian, to being featured accordionist at the Black Forest Inn, to playing every kind of Oktoberfest, to playing “Pepe Band” style for the Minnesota Vikings games, to playing the opening of Meredith Wilson’s Music Man Square” Museum, to being on the road of the “Mary Lu De Met, Richard Ericsson Foundation” an entity that grants scholarships to aspiring musicians. and to playing the famous Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, Skeets has done it all.

Rosemarie, his wife, shares, “First of all, any celebration of life gathering we will have for Skeets will be held in Minneapolis.  Many of you have been wanting details.  Before I explain further, I will put forth one word, which says it all:  COVID. Those of you now reading this who live in Minnesota are fully aware that Gov. Tim Walz has now put further restrictions on the number of people allowed at a "funeral."  I understand also, that right now, weather is a drawback.  Plus, I want everyone who wants to attend Skeets' event to be able to comfortably do so, and that might not be possible for them while COVID is still infecting people. So, after talking with our son David, we feel that this get together would best be arranged after the virus has been controlled (when vaccine is available and most have had access to it). I will keep our Caringbridge avenue of communication open until this last detail is decided so that all of you will know when our get together occurs. Interment of Skeets' cremains will be at noon next Tuesday at our church's Memorial Garden.”

For further information: Dee Langley: squeezermn@yahoo.com
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