From the Heart of the Hood to the Pinnacle of Paris
Leon Alexander Brady, Steve Penn
In 1966, Sumner High School in Kansas City, Kansas, hired New Orleans native and Tennessee State University graduate Leon Alexander Brady to teach band and orchestra. Through much hard work and perseverance, the Brady-led Sumner stage band earned an invitation in 1972 to the Paris Jazz Internationale Festival, where – against all odds – it won the competition and was celebrated locally and nationally.
In a discussion of his book From the Heart of the Hood to the Pinnacle of Paris, author Steve Penn, a former Brady student, speaks with Brady about his career as a music teacher, the success of his former students, and his intense desire to impact the next generation of jazz musicians. Brady also recounts the events in Paris in ’72, when the Sumner band was the best in the world.
Penn, who played trumpet in Sumner’s and Brady’s marching and stage bands, is a former award-winning columnist for The Kansas City Star, where he worked for 31 years. He is the author of two previous books, Case for a Pardon, the story of exiled Black Panther Party leader Pete O’Neal, and Last Call: The History of the Kansas City’s Coda Jazz Fund.