A literal ton of sheet music recently arrived at Troy University’s John M. Long School of Music, courtesy of the U.S. Marine Band.
The donation, which includes thousands of pieces dating as far back as the 1880s, weighed 2,550 pounds on arrival.
Troy University Band Director Dr. Mark Walker said the donation is exceedingly rare and may be the largest of its kind since the University of Illinois received a donation from John Philip Sousa upon his death in 1932
“This is the only other time I’ve heard one of our military band organizations say, ‘We have this giant collection of music we’d like to give to you if you want it,’” Walker said. “I think it’s extremely unique. The Marine Band has the most historically significant working band library anywhere in the world.”
Marine Band officials reached out to TROY to inquire about the University’s interest in a donation.
“They said they had a bunch of excess music,” Walker said. “They asked if we’d be interested in taking some of it, and I said we’d be happy to take it off their hands. They said there would be a lot of duplicates, some things that have never been played and would likely never be played, some manuscripts, and a variety of other things.”
What Walker found when the music arrived, however, was a collection that included pieces dating to the turn of the 20th century.
Walker said it will take librarians about a year to comb through the collection.
“We found music, just from digging through a little bit of it, from 1888, 1899, and there are lots of pieces from the early 1900s, so well over 100 years old,” Walker said. “Who knows what else is going to be in there? Our librarians are going to enjoy it. It’s kind of like a treasure hunt.”
The School of Music will create a special collection in the band library.
Walker said the University will keep about a third of the collection, and the rest will be made available to area schools to use as they please.
“What we don’t use, we’ll make available to anybody else and they’ll be able to use it,” he said.
Ultimately, Walker plans to craft a concert using the best music from the collection, something he said is at least a year or two away.
“We’re going to find the best pieces, create a program from it and, hopefully, be able to catalog it in an interesting way,” he said. “In some cases, this will be the first performance of this material in 100 years.”