Thursday, May 29, 2014


A composer, songwriter, conductor and
playwright, he is best known for writing the
book, music and lyrics for The Music Man.
He wrote three other Broadway musicals,
composed symphonies and popular songs
and his film scores were nominated for
Academy Awards. Meredith Willson was
born in Mason City, Iowa

on May 18, 1902.
He learned to play the

his native city which may account for the
reference of mail-order instruments in The
Music Man story) while still in high school.

Image result for University of Iowa fight song willson sheet music

In 1919, at age 17, he enrolled in New York's

from 1924–1929. During World War II, he
Radio Service. His work with the AFRS teamed
working as their bandleader, and as a regular
character on their radio program. He continued
songwriting while working as music director
of NBC radio and television networks.

Meredith Willson Orchestra at NBC's KPO
His work in films included Academy Award
nominations for Best Original Score for
Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator, 1940
The Great Dictator.jpg
and for the score of William Wyler's

The idea for The Music
Man was originally
suggested by the song writer

who was fascinated by Willson's tales of growing
up in his small Iowa town. But it would be eight
years before Willson was satisfied with the script.
During that time, he would go through more than
30 revisions and write over 40 different songs
Meredith Willson is said to have based the story
on events that had happened in
Mason City, Iowa

Mason City, Iowa - the real River City

Mason City, Iowa:
The fictional town of River City was based on.

Mason City, Iowa - the real River City

when he was a child.
Willson referred to the show
as "an Iowan's attempt to
pay tribute to his home state."

Image result for University of Iowa fight song willson sheet music

Besides other Broadway hits:
The Unsinkable Molly Brown in 1960

based on the life of Molly Brown,
of Titanic fame and in 1963, the musical
based on the movie
"Miracle on 34th Street,"
Willson wrote a number of
very well known songs:
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,
Till There Was You,

(a hit for The Beatles in 1963)
and various other songs.
He also wrote the

and also Iowa State University's

An oddity in Willson's body
of work is Chicken Fat

written in 1962, as the theme
song for President Kennedy's
youth fitness program.

Willson's song had youngsters
a frenetic pace: push-ups, jumping
jacks and plenty of marching.

With an energetic vocal
by Robert Preston,

a marching band and full chorus,
it was likely recorded during sessions
for The Music Man movie.

Image result for University of Iowa fight song willson sheet music
His Symphony No. 1 in F minor, A Symphony
In E Minor, Missions of California
"Missions of California"
William T. Stromberg, Conductor
Moscow Symphony Orchestra

I. Junipero Serra
II. San Juan Bautista
III. San Juan Capistrano
IV. El Camino Real

were recorded in 1999 by

William T. Stromberg conducting the

Moscow State Symphony Orchestra.
Image result for University of Iowa fight song willson sheet music

Other symphonic and concert works include
O.O. McIntyre Suite, Symphonic Variations on
an American Theme and Anthem, the
symphonic poem Jervis Bay,
Ask Not, which incorporates a portion
of John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address,

and a chamber piece called
A Suite for Flute.
Image result for University of Iowa fight song willson sheet music
In general, it was recognized that Willson wrote
well-crafted, complex music that classical music
fans could appreciate, with intricate and
sometimes startling counterpoint, well-crafted
melody, and subtle orchestration, all
while still appealing to mass audiences.

Meredith Willson died in Santa Monica on June 15,
1984 at the age of 82. On June 23, 1987, he was
presented, posthumously, with the

Willson discusses 
"How Masterpieces Are Created"
Listen to a radio broadcast
about Meredith Willson:
Meredith Willson. Wrote The Music Man.Meredith Willson, composer of the Broadway musical "The Music Man," was born in Mason City, Iowa
Meredith Willson Monument at Music Man Square in Mason City, Iowa the boyhood home of Meredith Wilson!
In 1955, Meredith Willson and
Walt Disney founded The Big Brothers
 of Greater Los Angeles for which
he was honored by President Kennedy

Meredith Willson Receiving the
Big Brother of the Year Award
from President John F. Kennedy in 1962

Cast and crew of The Wizard of Oz in 1939
Cast and crew of The Wizard of Oz in 1939:
(clockwise from left) Bert Lahr, Ray Bolger, MGM executive LK Sidney, Yip Harburg,
 composer/conductor Meredith Willson, music publisher
Harry Link, Harold Arlen and Judy Garland.
Karl King with Meredith Willson
Meredith Willson with Karl King
Meredith Willson, Music Director of
the Carefree Carnival Radio Program