May 18 – Happy Birthday, Meredith Willson

Posted on May 18, 2016

When a con man convinces parents that the new pool table in the town's billiard parlor means Trouble (which starts with “T” - which rhymes with “P” - which stands for “Pool”!), what is his solution?

He offers to start a boy's marching band. He asks the parents to buy some musical instruments, and he promises to train the youths to play.

Of course, being a con man, he's not planning to actually produce the musical instruments or teach the boys anything; if you've ever seen the movie or show The Music Man, you know that Harold Hill plans to take all the money and skip town. Of course, that's not exactly how it goes down...

The creator of The Music Man, Meredith Willson, was born on this date in 1902. And in tribute to his story of how a con man accidentally infects an entire town with a love of music, his birthday has been proclaimed Buy a Musical Instrument Day!

Which is, in my opinion, pretty apt yet funny!

But as I checked multiple sources, I saw that many, many “holiday” and special-day listings claim that May 22 is Buy a Musical Instrument Day – no explanation given why that day, of all days.

I think I prefer the Willson-Music Man connection!

A bit about Willson...

The Music Man was set in a fictional town in Iowa. Well, Willson was born in a real town in Iowa. He learned to play piccolo and flute in high school, and he attended Frank Damrosch's Institute of Musical Art – which later became the Julliard School. He was a member of John Philip Sousa's band, the New York City Philharmonic Orchestra, and other musical groups, before moving to California and becoming known as a composer and songwriter.

In addition to The Music Man, Willson wrote three other musicals and popular songs, film scores, even symphonies! One of the songs he wrote is “It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.”

A bit about musical instruments...

Musical instruments can be pricey. You might think about renting an instrument to make sure it really suits you, and then buying. A quick Google search can reveal overstock, closeout, wholesale, and discount sites for musical instruments, but I appreciate a local store in which you can hold, try out, and listen to musical instruments.

My favorite musical instrument store ever is the Folk Music Center in Claremont, California. It is part store, part repair shop, part museum, part music school, part performing art center. There are lots of cool instruments from around the world, and there are “tours” for kids in which we travel in our imagination from Australia, listening to the eerie sounds of the didgeridoo; to China, listening to the pleasing plinks of hammered dulcimer; to Scotland, listening to the haunting wail of bagpipes; to Mexico, listening to the percussive intricacies of turtle shells, drums, and Hueceros de Fraile anklets.

My kids were lucky enough to take a "tour"
with store co-founder Charles Chase.

Maybe you have a local treasure of a music store, too? Ask around!

Also on this date:

Flag and Universities Day in Haiti

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