Biography

Leroy Anderson as conductor of the Harvard University Band in 1929
Leroy Anderson as conductor of the Harvard University Band in 1929

Harvard University Band

The Harvard University Band was very important in the musical development of Leroy Anderson. While his classes taught him the fine points of music, the Band gave him an outlet to develop his musical skills as an arranger and a conductor. In a1962 interview Leroy Anderson was asked about the Band:

Question: "You had something to do with the Harvard Band."

Anderson: "Yes, When I was a Senior I was Director of the Band. At that time the director of the Band was also the drum major and you made the drills. I then went to the graduate school and I wasn't able to direct the Band doing the whole job and it was finally decided that the job should be split up, that we really needed three people to do the three jobs. So I became the Music Director and we got another fellow who was very good at drills to design the drills and rehearse them and we got someone else as drum major. So that neither of us had to worry about throwing the stick over the goal post every Saturday afternoon. That gets rather difficult you know,
especially in the Harvard Stadium, down in the Bowl end there's quite a draft there. You have to go down in the morning to check the wind because its different every time.  I remember going down once and I had found that the wind had changed that particular game. It's a good thing I practiced because as I threw the baton over the goal post the wind picked it up and brought it back on the same side. So that meant that when we went down there, I had to throw it even harder against the wind so it would get over the goal post. I managed to hold onto it though when it came down. This of course was a lot of fun, I enjoyed it, but actually my main interest was in music and so I was very glad when I had the chance just to be the Music Director of the Band. And then I had the opportunity of course to make medleys of different college songs which we played on the field between the halves. And I happened at that time to make an arrangement of Wintergreen for President, which as a matter of fact after all these years is still being played by the Band."

While the Band helped Leroy develop his musical skills as an arranger, it also hindered his musical education at Harvard. Anderson received his BA degree, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, in 1929, and his MA degree in 1930. He applied for a Paine Traveling Fellowship in 1930 which he had hoped would allow him to study with Nadia Boulanger, the great French musical teacher of Copland, Thompson and many other composers. He was turned down because of his association with the Band. He gave up directing the Band and reapplied. After a second refusal in 1931 he started work on a PhD in Scandinavian languages at Harvard and once again became Director of the Harvard University Band.

The Harvard Band was formed in 1919. This group served as pep band for the Harvard football team when it defeated Oregon in the Rose Bowl. It then played at the 1920 Tournament of Roses Parade and has continued with over 80 years of musical history. Initially performing at football and baseball games, the Harvard Band has played on national radio broadcasts, in Carnegie Hall and on opening day at Fenway Park in Boston.

The current Director and University Advisor of the Harvard Band, Thomas G. Everett, has the longest tenure in the history of the Band. Since his appointment in 1971, Everett has expanded the band to include two other organizations: the Harvard Wind Ensemble, a concert-oriented group, and the Harvard Jazz Band. Everett also directs the Harvard Summer Pops Band, made up of summer school students and members of the community.