Duke's Musical Roots

Circa 1929: Leftwich, with baton, and the Duke Orchestra

Circa 1929: Leftwich, with baton, and the Duke Orchestra
Photos: Duke University Archives

A direct link to Duke's musical roots recently visited University Archives: George Leftwich III, son of George "Jelly" Leftwich Jr., Duke's first director of instrumental music, who composed the fight song, "The Blue and White." Leftwich led Duke's music programs from 1926 to 1933, major years of transition as the former Trinity College expanded into a major university.

After prompting from professor emeritus and former Duke Wind Symphony conductor Paul Bryan, Leftwich donated his late father's scrapbook of early Duke clippings, photographs, programs, and other treasures to the archives. The scrapbook shows the early bands and musical groups, including Jelly Leftwich and his Blue Devils and the University Club Orchestra, that would inspire future band leaders Johnny Long '35 and Les Brown '36, as well as musical groups like the Duke Ambassadors (see the Duke Magazine article "Ambassadors of Swing"). Leftwich also took the struggling Duke Symphony Orchestra and quickly developed it into one of the best collegiate orchestras in the South.

— Pyatt '81 is a University Archivist.


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