Leroy Simmons (1960-2019)
A gospel artist, broadcaster and campaigner for the Bermudian music scene has died.
Leroy Simmons was 58. Mr Simmons, the head of the Bermuda Entertainment Union and a mainstay of radio station Hott 107.5, had battled cancer for some time.
Mr Simmons’s uncle, Charles Jeffers, said his nephew showed early promise, despite not being keen on piano lessons.
Mr Jeffers added: “Eventually, he realised this was something he could do, and he produced a gospel album before he was 18.”
He said Mr Simmons was the first Bermudian student to enrol in the Canadian Scholarship Trust, which started in 1969.
Mr Simmons attended university in Lakeville, Florida, and earned a bachelor’s degree.
He toured churches in the US giving vocal coaching before returning to teach the musical arts.
Mr Jeffers said: “Music was his passion and he was instrumental in helping many young people.”
He added, that Mr Simmons later became a campaigner for “the entertainment scene in Bermuda — he was passionate about what could be done”.
Mr Jeffers said that Mr Simmons was devoted to his family, loved to cook and organised Sunday dinners with his wife Yvonne at their Devonshire home.
Mr Simmons became well known for his Sunday inspirational radio show Get Your Praise On, which aired on Hott 107.5.
Glenn Blakeney of Inter-Island Communications, owners of the station, said Mr Simmons was the company’s longest serving employee.
Mr Blakeney praised the “incredible contributions he selflessly made as a proficient music teacher, concert promoter, consummate broadcaster and, more recently, as president of the Bermuda Entertainment Union”.
The BEU said a “tribute of song and word” would be held in Mr Simmons’s honour this Sunday.
The union added Mr Simmons had “unfinished business, but with the help of the Bermuda public we hope to bring his vision to fruition”.
Wendell “Shine” Hayward, a musician and teacher, preceded Mr Simmons as BEU president.
Mr Hayward said Mr Simmons was “adamant” that other artists got fair play.
He added: “He wanted all entertainers to feel that the union was there for them — musicians, vocalists, dancers, actors and DJs.”
The union changed its name from the Bermuda Federation of Musician & Variety Artists in 2014 to reflect its wider remit.
Mr Simmons also fought for Bermudian artists to get included on bills alongside international acts.
Mr Hayward said: “He did presentations on behalf of the union even while ill, and would work on his laptop from the hospital. He fought right to the end.”
He added Mr Simmons also continued to study and earned his re-certification as a music teacher last year.
David Burt, the Premier, said last night that Mr Simmons was “an inspired, consummate star musician”.
Mr Simmons also served as a member of the Bermuda Education Council, the Labour Advisory Council and on the Bermuda Trade Union Congress and was a member of St George’s Cricket Club.
Mike Charles, the general secretary of the Bermuda Trade Union Congress, said that the organisation planned to dedicate this year’s May Day celebration to Mr Simmons.
He said: “Bermuda has lost one of its shining stars — Brother Leroy was a staunch trade unionist.
“He was a musician’s musician, he believed that everyone could and should be allowed to be successful. He sought to elevate those around him.”
Update This story has been updated to include comments from the Bermuda Trade Union Congress.