"Silent Films Led to Music Career"

NOTES DA CAPO - By John Puffenbarger
November, 1996

Leland Arnold was an easygoing man who liked people. He had a pleasant personality, was able to get along with almost anyone, and would help anyone whenever he was asked. The many music festivals he conducted always ran smoothly because of his organizational skills.

Leland was born 17 March 1909 in Buckhannon, W.Va. He was very interested in music and began playing violin at an early age. He walked to Buckhannon High School on College Avenue, where he was involved in many music activities. While music was his main interest, he was also an ardent coin and stamp collector, and he liked to go to shows in West Virginia and neighboring states.

The old Grand Opera House in Buckhannon was located just a little distance off Main Street. Leland began playing for silent films in the orchestra there. The conductor watched a script which included pictures, and as a scene would appear on the screen he would give a downbeat for the orchestra to play the appropriate music. He also played at the Robinson Grand Theatre in Clarksburg and other area theatres until silent pictures were replaced with sound movies in 1928.

He did not have to go far to college since he simply walked a little farther down the street to West Virginia Wesleyan College. While at Wesleyan he dated Ruth Reger and married her while still attending school. They had three sons: Dr. Richard B. Arnold of the Department of Health in Tucson, Arizona; Raymond L. Arnold of the West Virginia State Department of Natural Resources in Beckley; and Robert C. Arnold, who teaches botany at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

Artists, public speakers, actors, and musicians traveled around the country during the early part of this century performing in Chautauqua shows. Leland traveled with some of these shows around 1930. He also played violin in various orchestras in some New York shows.

In 1931 he began teaching band and orchestra in the small town of Monroe City, Missouri. He returned to West Virginia in 1933, where he accepted a position as county director in Tucker County. In 1937 he became the county director for Marion County.

Most of us remember Leland as a music educator in Cabell County. He came to Cabell County in 1940 and served in many ways. He was music supervisor, All-State High School Orchestra president (eight times), West Virginia Bandmasters president, chair of the WVMEA All-State Orchestra, assistant chair of the West Virginia State Band Festival for ten years, and state chair for the West Virginia State High School Band Festival in Huntington for twenty-four years. Many WVMEA members remember him for chairing the 1974 WVMEA Conference in Huntington.

He composed a considerable amount of music, including a Christmas song he wrote each year and which he mailed to friends all over the world. Some of his songs have been used in schools, churches, and by dance bands.

Leland and his wife liked to travel, and they were able to visit Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Africa.