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Symphonic Band is playing selections from the musical, The Music Man. Below is some information and links about The Music Man and its composer, Meredith Willson (did you know that Mr. Willson was a flute player in John Philip Sousa's band?!).

A BIG thanks to Monika Bernotas who did most of the research for this page. (It was her mini-project -- you could do that, too!)

"Seventy-six trombones led the big parade;
One hundred and ten cornets close behind."
--from "Seventy-six Trombones"


The musical was based on Mr. Willson's childhood stories growing up in a small Iowa town, Mason City, Iowa.

The musical took Mr. Willson 8 years to write. Franklin Lacey helped write the story, but Mr. Willson did all of the words & music for the musical.

Meredith Willson played flute & piccolo in the Sousa band and was solo flautist from 1921-1923. He was a major in the US army during World War II. He was the Musical Director for the Armed Forces radio service.

Even though he was new to writing for Broadway when he wrote this musical, The Music Man was a big hit and was the 3rd longest running play on Broadway for the decade (1950s). There were 1375 performances on Broadway the first time around, running from Dec 19, 1957 - Apr 15, 1961. There have been two revivals since then.

He wrote over 40 songs in 30 drafts before he was pleased with it (that probably has a lot to do with why it was so successful!!).

Many people were rejected for the role of Harold Hill, including Gene Kelly (an incredible singer, dancer and actor during the middle of the 20th century -- he was in many other musicals). Robert Preston played the part in both the Broadway version and the first movie.

Meredith Willson also wrote "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" and "May the Lord Bless and Keep You".

Meredith Willson -- 1902-1984

"Think, my friends, how could any pool table compete with a gold trombone!"
--from "Trouble"


Harold Hill is a con-artist (a cheat & liar -- hmmm... a bit like PT Barnum, but more so!) salesman who has turned to "selling" bands to make money. He swoops into town on the train (early 1900s) and convinces the townspeople that they need a boys band (girls weren't considered then...). He sells the instruments, sells the uniforms -- but, he can't play or teach music! So when everything arrives, "Professor Harold Hill" skips town with the money leaving the people with a bunch of shiney instruments & spiffy uniforms, but no one to teach the children how to play. Well, he convinces the citizens of River City, Iowa that he can teach their children to play in a marching band. Only after Marian, the town librarian, discovers his secret does...

No, I'm not going to tell you the rest. Take out the movie and watch it! Get the original version, not the new Disney version. The old one is better.

"Ya got trouble, my friend, Right here, I say trouble, right here in River City."
--from "Trouble"


  • Rock Island Express
  • Marian the Librarian
  • Gary, Indiana
  • 76 Trombones
  • The Wells Fargo Wagon
  • Trouble
  • Lida Rose
  • Goodnight, My Someone
  • Pick-a-little, Talk-a-little
  • Till There Was You (which hit the top charts when the Beatles recorded it!)

(The songs in bold are part of our arrangement)

"Well - I don't know much about bands, but I do know you can't make a livin' sellin' big trombones or ratatat drums - No sir."
--from "Rock Island"


In the year 2000, Susan Stroman directed a revival of The Music Man which ran on Broadway and toured (did you see it when it was here in Boston?? Awesome! --MsM)

The 2000 revival production ended with EVERYONE in the cast coming out on stage & playing trombone for "Seventy-six Trombones". The cool thing about that?? Most of them had never touched a trombone before they got into this show! That is some fast learning, eh??

"There were bells on the hill, But I never heard them ringing
No, I never heard them at all, Till there was you."
--from "Till There Was You"


What's a "noggin" or a "piggin" or a "knickerbocker"??? There are a lot of old-fashioned words in the Music Man because it was written a long time ago, and takes place almost 100 years ago. Here is a glossary of some of those terms: http://www.doggedresearch.com/wilson/glossary.htm

Go to http://www.iclassics.com/iclassics/album.jsp?selectionId=19467 to hear some cuts from some of the tracks from the new revival soundtrack.

Lyrics to the songs can be found at: http://www.endresnet.com/mmlyrics.html

More info at:

"The Music Man, a Musical by Meredith Willson". http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/albm40.html

Van Blaricum, Michael L. "Meredith Willson". 09/04/2000. http://www.doggedreasearch.com/wilson/willson.htm

"And we're so by-gone stubborn, we can
Stand touching noses for a week at a time
And never see eye-to-eye.
But we'll give you our shirt, And a back to go with it,
If your crop should happen to die"
--from "Iowa Stubborn"



Green, Stanley. Broadway Musicals, Show by Show. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard Publishing Corp., 1990. p177.

"The Music Man, a Musical by Meredith Willson". http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/albm40.html

Van Blaricum, Michael L. "Meredith Willson". 09/04/2000. http://www.doggedreasearch.com/wilson/willson.htm

"Lyrics - A Tribute to Meredith Willson's The Music Man". http://www.endresnet.com/mmlyrics.html

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