The Legacy of Robert Hoe, Jr.

Throughout the era of the long-playing (LP) record, there were several significant series of recorded band music.  The commercial (Mercury) albums recorded by the Eastman Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Frederick Fennell, were unique.  They brought both standard and contemporary band music to the public in an era when most other commercially-produced records were limited to familiar marches.

The LP era began in the late 1940s.  The commercial record market was dominated by jazz and popular performers at that time, and concert (or military) band records were not among the best-sellers.  Consequently, a large percentage of band records produced during that era were produced privately.  Sponsored mostly by schools, they served to preserve each band's repertoire rather than document the works of specific composers or types of compositions.  Additionally, most were produced with limited budgets and were issued in jackets which lacked program notes or even lists of works.  Titles were often printed on the record labels without the composers' names.

The most noteworthy series of private band records during the early LP era was the collection of albums produced by the University of Illinois.  Numbering over seventy, they were mostly recordings of concert works and included both original works for band and transcriptions.  In the beginning, these records were issued only in paper sleeves; later, they came in cardboard jackets of standard design which had spaces on the backs for the listener to catalog the selections.

Another important development, which began in the late 1950s, was the utilization of LP recordings by music publishers to promote their new releases.  Boosey & Hawkes and Belwin, for example, issued records that were accompanied by sample scores.  In their quest for economy, publishers sometimes issued the recordings on flexible plastic sheets, and the performances were often just excerpts.

One of the most extensive series of private LP recordings ever produced was the monumental undertaking initiated by Robert Hoe, Jr., in 1973 (click here for complete listing).  Hoe died in 1983, but his widow, Marilyn, continued the series until the backlog of previously recorded tapes was pressed into records (1988).

The Hoe series differed from other privately-produced records in several ways.  For one thing, they were never for sale.  Starting with marches, Hoe sought to document and preserve lesser-known band works and to present biographical information on composers about whom the public knew little or nothing.  Significantly, Hoe's series was international in scope.

In a sub-series, he presented almost all of the band works of John Philip Sousa.  In other sub-series, he introduced solo recordings and outstanding performances, mostly of transcriptions of orchestral works, by such stellar organizations as the United States Marine Band and the Allentown (Pennsylvania) Band.

The genesis of these recordings dated back to the time when Hoe graduated from college.  A euphonium player (a "youffer," as he usually described himself), he was dismayed because there were no adult bands near his Poughkeepsie, New York, home with which he could play the music he loved best.  Moreover, the demands of his business were such that he could not attend rehearsals and concerts on a regular basis.

As a result, he began collecting band records.  He not only collected commercial and private recordings but also tapes of concerts.  At the same time, he began to collect band parts for the music on the records.  What developed was a unique hobby of playing along with the records on his euphonium (and other brass instruments as well) using the same editions of the music which the bands were using on the records.  Eventually, he became acquainted with many kindred souls who helped him with the collection of music and recordings.

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Hoe visited bands with major music libraries and made copies of music which was not readily available, and his own personal library became quite large.  He made several trips to Europe, where his quest for forgotten music reaped unexpected dividends.  For example, he discovered a large number of rare German marches in the basement of a theater in Wesel and still others in a German radio station.  In Spain, he found many pasodobles that were unknown outside that country.  He made similar finds in France, England, and Italy.  In his own country, he acquired entire libraries of several bands no longer in existence.

Hoe also took on the challenge of sorting thousands of uncataloged pieces of band music in the basement archives of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.  With the help of the author of this encyclopedia and several other band scholars, he searched through over 6,000 boxes to locate music that was not represented on Library of Congress catalog cards.  [The Library subsequently cataloged these pieces, using their standard numbering system.]

Since much of the music discovered there and elsewhere could not be found in band editions (i.e., only piano or orchestra editions could be located), Hoe enlisted the help of others in making special band arrangements.  Chief among those who worked tirelessly in this task were Gay Corrie of England (a schoolteacher and expert on John Philip Sousa), Loren D. Geiger (a school band director of Lancaster, New York), as well as the author.

The next step was to interest bands in making commercial recordings of some of the newly-discovered pieces, particularly the marches.  This turned out to be extremely difficult, but two bands cooperated: the Scots Guards Band of England produced two all-Sousa albums, and the Band of the Life Guards (also England) produced an album of the marches of Karl L. King which were selected by Mr. King himself.

With the Korean War came a gradual but definite decline of interest in anything associated with military operations.  In a relatively short time, new LP releases of military band and concert band music were reduced about 80%.  Needless to say, this greatly frustrated Robert Hoe, Jr.  In his mind, there was only one solution: produce band records himself. Thus was born the Heritage series of LP records.  The first series of fifteen records, now much sought-after by collectors, was called the Heritage of the March.  The recordings were made by the United States Navy Band, then conducted by Commander Donald W. Stauffer.  The works of an American composer were presented on one side of each record, and the works of a foreign composer were on the reverse side.

The series was continued by other bands in a numbered series.  Hoe also started a lettered series of additional works by composers who had been introduced on the numbered series.  This extraordinary project grew until a total of 263 records were produced, all at Hoe's expense.  He donated the records to libraries, schools, radio stations, and to a group of band afficionado friends whom he affectionately called his "clan."  Between 600 and 2,000 copies of each record were produced.

Hoe died in 1983, but the records he produced assured him of immortality.  His grandiose project consumed practically all of his free time during the last eleven years of his life.  In the process of gathering information for jacket notes, he became one of the world's most knowledgeable band historians.  

It was Hoe's dream to preserve his accumulation of biographical and music data in book form, and he selected William H. Rehrig to compile such a work.  Expansion of the basic data far exceeded Hoe's original intent, and it is the desire of both author and editor that the material presented herein will prove to be a monument to an incredible human being.

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