Home Resources The NAMM Oral History Project

The NAMM Oral History Project

The NAMM oral history video project is a valuable documentation of the history of the music products industry. The videos consist of interviews conducted with influential and important personalities in the music industry and provide an insight into the people and experiences that have shaped the music industry.

Among these interviews are some of the best known educators, artists, teachers, and publishers in the world of piano. To view, click on the name of the person.

David L. Abell formed his piano retail store in Beverly Hills back in the late 1950s. Since that time he has established one of the finest reputations in our industry. Noted musicians, industry leaders and movie stars alike have boasted of his quality of service and the fact that most of his deals have been based on a handshake.

Jane Bastien and her husband, James, created a new method of piano teaching, which helped students and their teachers alike. The series of Bastien method books, which have been published by Neil Kjos, now are printed in many languages around the world.

Lou Berger is an energetic piano salesman in the style of the old piano traveler of a by-gone era. Lou is a walking encyclopedia of the piano business and is well versed in the player piano boom of the 1890s all the way to the electronic piano disc boom of the 1990s.

Zeb Billingsopened Billings Pianos in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1956. With great success as a retailer, Zeb branched out into publishing when he saw the need to include packets of sheet music in the bench of every piano sold. The idea and others led to Billings Publishing, which he would later sell to Hal Leonard.

Arnold Broido was an industry treasure! The man had sophistication and charm as abundantly as he had energy and ideas! Having worked in nearly every level of the music publishing industry, he began his long and successful career with Theodore Presser in 1969 and in 1972 began serving on the ASCAP Board.

Dave Brubeck has played Baldwin Pianos for most of his long career. As a classically trained performer, he added poly-rhythmic concepts to jazz. Among his most celebrated recordings is the world famous “Take Five.”

Edna Mae Burnam authored the now classic piano training books “A Dozen a Day” to help beginners learn in a fun and meaningful way. Her books have been critical to millions of young pianists around the world for over 60 years.

Robert C. Cosgrove was hired by the Baldwin Piano Company following World War II and later worked his way up to vice president. He witnessed the re-building of the production line, which during the war was used to assemble wooden gliders.

Edith De Forest has been associated with the Pratt-Read Company for over 70 years! She began working for the piano keys and action manufacturer in the early 1930s.

Brenda Dillon has played a vital role in the development and acceptance of group piano lessons based on the concept of recreational music making. As a strong advocate of RMM, Brenda has promoted the many benefits to students and to teachers.

Don Dillon is an industry original! Throughout his 25-plus years in non-profit association management, Don has represented some of the best-known organizations in the music industry, most notably the Piano Manufacturers Association International and National Piano Foundation.

Morton and Iris Manus are one of the most adorable couples you may ever meet. Their interview was full of colorful remembrances of the early days of Alfred Publishing, how they met, and the great pride of their sons now running the company.

Keith Mardak provided great detail of the history of Hal Leonard Publishing, especially the stories of the company’s founder, who passed away years ago, before they could be interviewed for this program. Without Keith’s insight the early days of this important music publisher may have been lost.

Julian Marrson can tell the history of the piano industry in England because he and his family lived it. His grandfather was a piano turner who expanded the business in south- east London with a small shop where two of his sons, including Julian’s father, began to work.

Jay McShann is 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.

Webb Phillips formed the Allied Piano Company outside of Philadelphia with the goal of filling a need. As a piano technician it is hard to find reliable products that you can trust, so Webb sought to gather the best the industry had to offer and supply the products to his fellow tuners.

Wesley Schaum’s father wrote and arranged music with the hope of serving school band programs in a meaningful way. He wrote several important scores including the noted Schaum Piano Method Books before joining forces with his son Wesley in 1959.

Ursula Seiler is president of the piano company formed by her late husband’s family. The Seiler Piano Company of Kitzinger, Germany has an extensive history of producing well-respected and innovative products.

Henry Z. Steinway was quite articulate when speaking about the incredible history of the Steinway and Sons Piano Company. One could say that he lived all elements of being a Steinway as the former president of the Steinway Company.

Bruce Stevens has served as President of Steinway and Sons longer than any non-family member in the company’s more than 150 year history. Bruce has presided over several important programs at Steinway and Sons, including the launch of the Boston and Essex brand pianos.

Zhi Cheng Tong is the Chairman for Pearl River Pianos in China and one of the longest-term employees of the company that was established in 1956.

Charles Walter has been a pillar in the piano business for nearly 50 years. He was hired by the C.G. Conn Company to work in the piano design department back in 1964. In 1976, he introduced the Charles R. Walter Piano to the keyboard market, which was the beginning of his own brand and design of pianos.

Virginia Waring began her musical career as a concert pianist. In fact, it was while performing a duet piano performance on the Fred Waring Radio Program that she first met her future husband. Fred Waring had a remarkable music career that covered radio, television, recordings, and music publishing.

Roger Williams is known throughout the world for his countless albums and top ten hits as a solo pianist. He has had a remarkable career in bridging rock and roll and in incorporating jazz and American popular music along with classical into his performances and recordings.

Lucien Wulsin’s grandfather was taught the piano business by D. W. Baldwin, the founder of the world-famous piano company. When Lucien was interviewed in June 2005, at the age of 89, he reflected on his life and career.