Go Behind the Scenes of The Music Man’s Creation With New Online Exhibit | Playbill

News Go Behind the Scenes of The Music Man’s Creation With New Online Exhibit The Meredith Willson Digital Collection makes the writer’s physical archives available online for the first time.
Meredith Willson reading a script into an NBC radio microphone while sitting at a desk with a rack of RCA Victor records. Great American Songbook Foundation

The archives of conductor, composer, and author Meredith Willson have been digitized and made available online, thanks to a new project from The Great American Songbook Foundation.

Along with penning such popular songs as “It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” Willson is best known to Broadway fans as the writer of The Music Man, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and Here's Love.

This early draft of The Music Man from the online collection dates to 1954, three years before its Broadway opening. The Great American Songbook Foundation

Items in the online collection include personal photos and musical scores dating back to the 1920s, character sketches and early drafts for The Music Man, and personal correspondence between Willson and several famous figures of his time, including former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower.

"One theme that emerges from this collection is that so much of his life was rolled into The Music Man, even though it wasn't strictly autobiographical," Songbook Foundation archivist Lisa Lobdell shares in press notes. "You can see the connections to characters and events in his life, how important his hometown was. He was kind of an everyman, and he never lost touch with that."

Bringing Willson's archives to the web was part of a collaboration between the Songbook Foundation, which was founded in 2007 by Michael Feinstein to preserve and elevate the legacy of the Great American Songbook, and HistoryIT, a company that helps brings historical archives into interactive online collections. The digital archive was prepared from Willson's physical papers, which are housed at the Songbook Archives & Library at the Songbook Foundation's headquarters in Carmel, Indiana.

To explore The Meredith Willson Digital Collection, visit Songbook.HistoryIT.com.


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