Oral History -

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Irwin Robinson played vital roles at many of the largest and most important American music publishers for much of the second half of the 20th Century. Irwin worked for Columbia Pictures (as legal counsel for its publishing company, Alden Music), Chappel Music (as president), EMI (as president) and Famous Music (as president) establishing himself as one of the pioneers and leaders in the pop print industry. Along with his fascinating career is a host of memories from witnessing the creative process of music making.

Emil Richards has played a significant role in the expanded use and knowledge of world percussion instruments. Through his recordings and work for TV and the movies, Emil has become known for adding dashes of new sounds and flavors to many of the nearly 2,000 films including authentic Russian instruments for “Doctor Zhivago” (1965).

Larry Rast has served as President of the Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation since 1994. With a strong background in teaching, Larry understands the need for music programs for all levels of a child’s development and is proud to have made music education a part of each endeavor he has pursued during his long career. While still teaching music at the college level, Larry developed the piano laboratory program for Wurlitzer during the late 1960s. After the Wurlitzer Company went out of business, Larry was asked to run the foundation for music education established by the son of the company’s founder.  

Specs Powell played jazz drums during the hey-day of 52nd Street in New York City. He worked hard -- sometimes four gigs a night -- playing behind such legends as Billie Holiday, John Kirby and Red Norvo. Specs was active in the V-Disc recordings to boost the troops’ morale during World War II and became the first black musician hired by a network orchestra, CBS back in 1943.

Marybeth Peters has worked in the United States copyright office for 40 years and has become one of the country’s leading authorities on the copyright laws as it relates to published and performed music. Our interview with her included information regarding her career as well as a wonderful review of the history of US music copyright and how it has changed over the years.

Herbert Newton opened his piano store in 1939, a few years after becoming a piano tuner in the Norfolk area. Back in the beginning of the store, traveling out to nearby farms was key to his success. A decade later he found the key to be servicing pianos for the US Navy. Herb spent decades bringing music to his customers and teaching their children to play.

Dr. Robert Moog was the father of the synthesizer and perhaps the best-known promoter of the Theremin and electronic music. When he passed away in 2005 after a short illness, he was eulogized as an inventor and lover of music. When his Modular Moog was introduced in 1965, followed by the Minimoog in 1969, he forever changed the range of tone in modern music, and many would say its attitude as well. The synthesizer celebrated the two things Bob loved most, electronics and music. Before Bob, the idea of electronic music was toy like; today, it is a way of life.

Bruce Mitchell is a veteran of the Canadian piano and organ industry dating back to 1966 when he was hired as the Hammond Organ sales rep for Canada. Bruce has since been deeply involved with Kurzweil Music and Young Chang as well as the Musical Instrument Association of Canada (MIAC).

Jay McShann ​was one of the last great original stride pianists, one of the last Big Band Era leaders and one of the few musicians to work with such an amazing list of jazz icons. During our interview with him he told some of the most memorable McShann classic stories such as when he was the first big band to hire Charlie Parker and the true story behind Parker’s nickname Bird. What put Jay in a class by himself was the warm way he told his stories and the humble approach he had toward what is without question one of the great jazz success stories in history.  

Robert McDowell was president of the NAMM Board of Directors from 1969-1971. During that time he assisted William Gard in the expansion of the NAMM organization, including more hands on involvement with AMC and its publication Music USA. As a retailer in St. Louis for Ludwig-Aeolian, Bob saw the need to launch a nationwide music promotion campaign in the early 1970s.

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