Bruce won't tell you a lot about his career. He is not one to speak about what he did, or dwell on his accomplishments, or his foolishness and missed opportunities either for that matter. But lots of you have asked for a bit of background, so here's a quick overview of his life in the music business.

Having lived with Bruce for thirty seven years, I will tell you this. He has lived and loved music all his life. And though he has little interest in looking back over his shoulder, he holds endless gratitude for each phase of his career and all those who have helped him, hired him, taught him, encouraged him, and played with him.  

And as for that elusive creature the music muse, well, once in love, always in love…….CJ


Like a lot of musically inclined young men growing up in Hamilton, Ontario in the sixties Bruce was in a band - several of them actually - The Rising Sons, The Pharaohs, The Gentle Touch, and The Brass Union. He played piano and organ mostly, often taking the role of lead singer and song writer. But he was always interested in experimenting with a wide variety of instruments especially horns, drums, and guitars. The combination of long hours of playing and the freedom to be inventive were foundational to his later work as a composer and arranger. 

 Bruce Ley  recording with 'Young"
 Leading the Band…...
Bruce Ley with The Gentle Touch
Another moment that was significant for the band was the addition of Bruce Ley, formerly with The Rising Sons, a Yorkville-based Toronto band. After his arrival, the band became more musically aware and experimental, exploring more obscure music. With Bruce, we experimented a lot musically. The band learned to ‘groove’ and how to jam, something we really did not do before. Plus, we rehearsed constantly, even when we were playing. We would play until 1 a.m. and we would be rehearsing at noon the next day for three or four hours.

Cliff Hunt, Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer Yangaroo, DMDS and former member of The Brass Union


After the Brass Union broke up, fellow band member Len Blum and Bruce were invited to play at Art Snider's studio in Toronto. And play they did - all hours of night and day. It is here Bruce learned the basic skills of arranging, recording, engineering and producing. Art was enormously generous to young musicians, hiring them to play on sessions during the day and turning the studio over to them at night. 

In the 70's Bruce became involved with the T.H.P. Orchestra as they pumped out a series of sophisticated disco albums. Bruce was the main composer for the team working with and learning from the American orchestral arranger Pete Peterson.

With producers Willi Morrison and Ian Gunther, Bruce had new opportunities to work with top studio musicians and engineers, and reconnected with George Semkiw with whom he formed a strong working relationship. With the wide success of the albums, particularly in the disco crazed European culture of the mid '70's, Bruce became a SOCAN member, making the acquaintance of the working musicians' dream: royalties. 

T.H.P. Disco
THP 2 Album Cover Bruce Ley writer
T.H.P. Tender is the Night
T.H.P. Early Riser
Bruce with Ronnie Prophet

From the late seventies into the early eighties, Bruce played piano for Grand Old Country with Ronnie Prophet at CFTO-TV as well as on The Tommy Hunter Show at CBC. Bruce had not grown up with country music, but took to it immediately, coming under the tutelage of musical director and guitarist Mike Francis. Between the two television programs he had the opportunity of playing and performing with many of the country stars of the time - Brenda Lee, Chet Atkins, Phil Everley, Eddie Rabbit, George Jones, Ferlin Husky, The Gatlin Brothers, Kitty Wells, Hank Snow, Crystal Gail…...


TVO Logo
TVO Kids

Throughout the 80's and early 90's Bruce wrote extensively  for the children's department at TVOntario where catchy tunes were a main stable of their celebrated programming. He was musical director/musician and/or composer for: Téléfrançais, Polka Dot Shorts, Zardip's Search for Healthy Wellness, Here's How, The Magic Library, Look Up, Art's Place, Join In!, and The Green Earth Club. Over at CBC he contributed to the Canadian segments of Sesame Street as well as various weekly dramas. 

Bruce worked with Atlantis Films in the early years as they developed their film company, contributing musical scores to short and full length dramas including the Ray Bradbury Theatre. He scored various projects for the The National Film Board including The Painted Door, a co-production with Atlantis that garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Short Live Action Film, 1984, and animation projects including the Nelvana children's series Elliott Moose.

During this time Bruce continued to work as a session musician in Toronto, playing at the various studios of the time - Thunder Sound, Manta, Phase One, RCA studios and Sounds Interchange. 

CD Cover Bruce Ley Composer
National Film Board Logo
Atlantis Logo
Nelvana Logo

Bruce has always loved composing. It does not matter what genre of music is required - classical, jazz, blues, country, rock - he sees it as his job to work with the director to uncover the music that is needed for the project - rather like a musical treasure hunt. He is equally comfortable working with live action film, television, and stage or radio or animation projects. Here are a few short clips taken from some of his projects at this time.


picture of bruce ley playing guitar

Since moving to Mulmur in 2000, Bruce has set up his own recording studio working on a wide variety of projects from the radio play 'Blood and Fire' to composing and sound design for the RunLey Productions children's read-a-long books. He can be found on the centre state at the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival playing with notable bluesman like Big Eyes Willie Smith and Bob Stoger or quietly playing around the area as a jazz duo with Bob Hewus.  

Bruce also kept busy on the road with Trouble and Strife, a blues band he formed along with Larry Kurtz - voted Favourite Canadian Blues Group of the Year at the 7th Annual Independent Music Awards. 

Bruce Ley at the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Fesitval
Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival
Bruce Ley in Creemore
Trouble and Strife

Peggy Lee Fever Poster
Ned Durango
Poster for 18 Wheels
Whitcha Lineman

Bruce also discovered musical theatre as a new venue for his talents, working both as a side man and musical director and expanding his repertoire of working mediums. He has been the arranger for Leisa Way and her productions of Wichita Lineman, Rhinestone Cowgirl, Fever, and Country Jukebox. Leisa, a veteran performer and producer, has been generous in sharing her substantial knowledge of this particular art form with Bruce - always a student, always learning…...


Mathew's Poster
There have been many sensational evenings of incredible music at the Orangeville Town Hall Opera House over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more knocked out than by the evening recently presented - Bruce Ley, It’s All About Love - was certainly an evening of original songs I won’t soon forget.

Bruce is an extremely talented and popular local musician, but when he decided to take downstage centre himself and strut his stuff with an evening of wonderful music he created in artistic collaboration with his wife Candice Bist, the old Opera House really came alive.
This loving team has penned some fantastic music with potent and powerful lyrics.

 

A couple of years ago while organizing a benefit concert for friend and fellow musician Matthew Fleming, Bruce finally gathered all his talents into one place as producer/musician, arranger and performer and landed back where he started - at centre stage.

The concert was a sold out success and was followed by an invitation from the Orangeville Concert Association to put together an evening concert in whichever way he chose. 

Another sold out performance and crowd pleasing evening solidified Bruce's desire to go back to live performing and stand where he feels so comfortable - right out front.

Bruce will be forever grateful to the OCA, a local volunteer operation that supports artists and musicians in the best way possible - hiring them to put on concerts in the wonderful Orangeville Opera House.

This audio clip from the concert includes solos from Steve Kennedy (Dr. Music, Motherload, and Lighthouse), Bob Hewus, and Bruce.

Poster from Bruce Ley Concert
I want to thank Bruce and Candice for reminding all of us to: “Peer into this strange and beautiful world of ours and see in its beauty and degradation, the possibility of grace. Regard the other with a gentle eye and a lightness of heart, and too, yourself.”
— David Nairn, Artistic Director, Orangeville Opera House

Darwin would say that he could trace his teachers back to Beethoven, who like Darwin, was among other things, a teacher of piano and composition. I was struck by that thought, by the idea of the lineage of musical teachers going back through time to composers and writers who all these years later we still hold in high esteem.

So the last few years I’ve begun to teach. I teach to students that are interested in learning composition - who understand that music is both mathematical and mystical. It could be the blues. It could be something classical or pop. Doesn’t matter. All music is both profoundly simple and infinitely complex. And all music has magic in it, that’s the important thing to know….

I’m really enjoying passing the torch on to others - and finding new teachers in my students…..

I hope Darwin and Beethoven would approve…..
— Bruce Ley

 

Nobody gathers the amount of musical knowledge Bruce has acquired without having many teachers over the years. Bruce has had more than his share - not the least of whom are all the musicians he has worked with, and continues to work with. But there are two mentors who require special mention - Milan Kymlicka and Darwin Aiken. 

Darwin, who was the most generous of teachers, had studied with Leopold Godowsky when Darwin was a young man living in New York. By then Godowsky was no longer performing publicly, but he was a brilliant and beloved teacher, particularly of composition and theory. Darwin carried on that tradition. Bruce studied 12 tone and atonal composition from a very patient Darwin. 

Milan, who had studied orchestral composition at the Conservatory of Prague, was not only a gifted composer, but equally important to Bruce, he was a true artist. His devotion was always to the music, never to what he would call the 'periferals'. He restored Bruce's faith in his own musical soul.