Yesterday's Band Music: Some Sources and Repositories

Among the thousands of works listed in this encyclopedia are many older pieces that were once very popular and perhaps do not deserve obscurity.  When bandmasters wish to perform these, often as a result of requests, they usually have difficulty finding the music.  Some sources and repositories of hard-to find music are listed below.


Publishers often have small quantities of older compositions not listed in their current catalogs.  They might also have single reference copies of out-of-print music from which photocopies can be made.  Reprints are sometimes available, such as those issued by the Edwin F. Kalmus Company, which reprints the works of numerous other publishers.  (It might be necessary to modify some parts to make them useable by modern bands, as noted in Using Foreign Band Music.)

Libraries of defunct bands or publishers

When a band or publisher goes out of business, the music library usually meets one of the following fates:

a. It is retained by someone in the organization.  In the case of a band, it could be the former conductor, the librarian, or a prominent band member.

b. It is donated to a library, historical society, museum, or archives.

c. It is thrown away.  This might seem inconceivable to a serious researcher, but it is a common occurance.  It should be noted that when one publisher sells out to another, the second publisher usually does not keep copies of the first publisher's music for a long period of time.

d. A band might sell or donate its library to another band.

e. If a band is sponsored by a government, as are some town bands, the music library might be held in storage.  If it is known that the town does not have a music bureau, an inquiry should be made to the recreation department.

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Libraries, historical societies, museums, and archives

Older institutions sometimes have collections of defunct bands.  They might also have written histories of musicians who played in them; those persons, if still living, might have knowledge of the disposition of the music libraries.

Older bands  Older bands, particularly those sponsored by national governments, often have vast music libraries which are valuable from a historical viewpoint.  In the United States, some of the largest band libraries are those of the Marine Corps (Washington, D.C.), the Allentown (Pennsylvania) Band, the Ringgold Band (Reading, Pennsylvania), and numerous fraternal bands.  Some fraternal bands, such as Shrine bands, have interesting collections.  In England, the libraries of the Guards Bands and Kneller Hall are quite large.  Several European bands have extensive libraries.

Schools Many universities, colleges, and high schools have substantial music libraries.  Some have acquired the libraries of defunct non-school bands.

The Library of Congress  To investigate the music collections at the Library of Congress (Washington, D.C), a researcher should make a personal visit.  Only then will the enormity and scope of the various collections be appreciated.  The music is either published or unpublished, and some may be examined only on microfilm.   Music with active copyrights may not be photocopied without written permission of the copyright holders.

The Chatfield Brass Band Lending Library  The Chatfield (Minnesota) Brass Band Lending Library has an enormous collection of published band music, and most of it is out-of-print.  Since the library is a nonprofit organization and is staffed only by volunteers, it is customary to make a donation when borrowing music or asking for information.  When making requests, as much publishing information as possible should be provided (exact title, date, composer/arranger name, publisher name).

Private collections  There are many private collections of band music around the world.  Not all are available for study, however.  It is best to ask bandmasters or band historians about the locations of private libraries which might have the types of music desired for study, loan, or copying.

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