Monday, August 9, 2021

Golden Music's Massive Sheet Music Library

Hey all. A few weeks ago I was alerted about an incredible sheet music collection, being housed at Golden Music. The business has taken on a huge project - databasing each and every one of the donated items it currently has stored. We are talking thousands of pieces. It's a huge undertaking, but one which will preserve these important music pieces for decades to come.

We're talking pretty much every type of sheet music you can think of -  pieces from the 1800s to pop music of the 1990s. Seeing it in person is overwhelming. My thanks to project organizer Betsy Nelms, who graciously showed me the collection, and talked to me about the store's plans.

How did you all obtain this massive collection? 

Many people donate used sheet music to Golden Music. When Denver Musicians Association (DMA), the musicians' union, moved their offices to our building, they donated many boxes of sheet music.

What does the collection contain - what kind of music? 

We have had a lending library of school string orchestra music for many years. This library has string orchestra selections from very beginning level through advanced works suitable for high school and collegiate level. This repertoire ranges from classical style through newly written material and arrangements of Broadway and movie tunes. We also have had a music education program ever since the store was started over 20 years ago. The library has teaching materials for piano, electronic organ, every band and orchestra instrument, guitar, and classical voice and theatrical voice. The DMA donation included teaching materials for specific instruments, youth orchestra music, theatre orchestra music from early 20th century and dance band music.

Where did the pieces originate? 

Many individuals donate sheet music to the store, mostly instructional materials for instrumental lessons. The many boxes from DMA also came from various sources. I was told that some came from radio station KOA. In the early days of radio, many stations had their own in-house musicians who played live music on the air. A few of the folios are stamped with KOA National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC). Most have no markings as to their original source. 

 How many pieces are there? 

As you saw when you visited Golden Music, there is a lot of music. The school orchestra lending library probably has well over 1,000 titles from very beginning level to advanced string orchestra. The school band lending library probably has about 100 titles and is expanding. There also is a full symphonic orchestra section (winds and strings) that has about 50 titles. The instructional materials for piano probably has about 250 titles. The materials for other instruments probably has 300 titles ranging from violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone and a few others. The youth orchestra materials are of two types. The first was published by BMI in the early 1940's. There are probably 500 titles ranging from folksongs to arrangements of classical repertoire. The other type is a mix of original compositions for youth orchestra and arrangements of classical repertoire, published by various music publishing houses from late 1800's through mid-20th century. The octavo sized theatre orchestra materials are for a medium sized ensemble of strings and winds, maybe 15-20 players. This portion of the collection has well over 1,000 titles most of which are dance tunes and arrangements of popular songs of the early 20th century.

Do you need help with databasing or other archiving jobs - looking for volunteers? 

Currently, I am doing all the database entry and prefer to continue without assistance. However, when it is time to digitize this music, some help would be appreciated. 

Do you plan to sell any pieces? 

Alex Qualtire, co-owner of Golden Music, was quite adamant that nothing is for sale from this collection. 

Do you plan to make them available to the public - if so, how do you plan to do this? 

At the moment, only the string orchestra lending library, band music library, and the symphonic orchestra library are available for loan to teachers. There are no plans for the older music except to maintain it in archival storage. Once we really know what is in this collection, as I complete the database, Alex may be willing to loan out materials to teachers. 

Do you plan to digitize it? 

Once Alex agrees to lend a title, it will be digitized. Only the electronic version, not the fragile paper pages, will be allowed on loan. There are no plans yet to digitize the entire collection. The database can be made available to anyone who would be interested. 

What are some of the most interesting pieces you all have discovered? 

I found it quite interesting to see many pieces in the youth orchestra music by Irenee Berge who was a Frenchman who moved to the United States at the end of the 1800's to conduct orchestras. He is listed in Wikipedia although I don't know anyone today who knows his name. As I worked through the octavo theatre orchestra music, I found tunes that my mother used to sing. She was born in 1912 and was very familiar with popular tunes from 1920's, 1930's and into World War II era music. In all parts of the collection, there are patriotic tunes and medleys. Some represent tunes from the American Civil War, some from World War I and World War II. There are also many tunes that reflect the culture of early 20th century. with references to Hawaii, China, Japan, Eastern Europe, and Scandinavia. 

Are you accepting more pieces into the collection? If so, how can folks get those to you? 

Golden Music will always accept donations to these various types of library holdings as listed above. The donor should bring the music into the store, Golden Music, 10395 W. Colfax, Lakewood, 80215. The store is also active in assisting band and orchestra programs through the public, charter and private schools. 

Is it safe to say that is one of the largest (if not THE largest) collection of sheet music, in Colorado? Do you know of any other collections, this vast? 

In reality, this is a modest collection of sheet music. Quite likely local universities and school districts have a similar size or larger. What makes this collection unique is the amount of music of historical value. Although the string orchestra and band lending libraries have selections from the past 20-30 years, the majority of the youth orchestra music and the theatre/dance orchestra music comes from the first half of the 20th century.

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