Corporate History and Profile
the late 1930s in Winona, Minnesota, Harold "Hal" Edstrom, his brother
Everett "Leonard" Edstrom and their friend Roger Busdicker had formed
a very popular dance band. The Edstroms' father didn't approve of his sons becoming
traveling musicians, and did not want them to use the family name. Consequently,
Harold and Ev took parts of their names and called the band Hal Leonard. As leader
of the Hal Leonard Band, Ev eventually became known as "Hal Leonard."
Hal Leonard – the print publishing company – was founded in 1947, after the Hal
Leonard Band broke up. At the time, Ev started a music store using the Hal Leonard
name while Roger and Harold were both directing award-winning high school bands in
Winona. In those days, most school bands played serious literature, but Harold and
Roger had the unique ability (because of their professional experience) to arrange
"popular" music for school bands. Soon band directors across the U.S.
wanted their arrangements. They started to mimeograph copies and sell them. They
realized that to successfully launch a new publishing company, they needed to license
songs, so they ventured to New York's Tin Pan Alley in search of copyrights. What
they got on their trip was an education in publishing and the rights to "I
Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now," one of the most popular songs of the day.
Eventually, many music publishers in New York were licensing Hal Leonard to do
school band arrangements of their songs. Thus began their publishing business and
a new industry.
company grew and soon choral arrangements and a wider variety of band arrangements were
added to their catalog of publications. In the early 1950s, the home organ industry began
to grow rapidly. That is when Hal Leonard published The Pointer System for Organ, which
eventually became the bestselling organ instruction method ever created. That method soon
led to the first organ "benchpack," which featured instruction books and songbooks
packaged in the bench of an organ. In the late 1950s, The Pointer Systems for Guitar and
Piano debuted, introducing millions of beginners to instant playing success.
In the mid-1960s, Hal Leonard began marketing band and choral music to educators by
sending recordings of arrangements through the mail. This unique promotional concept is
still used by virtually every music print publisher in the industry.
In 1970, Keith Mardak and associates started a new division of Hal Leonard in Milwaukee
called Learning Unlimited to create the first book/audio music education products. This
division soon outgrew the other divisions combined, and Mardak became general manager for
the entire company. Shortly afterward, the Hal Leonard Guitar Method was launched, becoming
one of the first methods to incorporate popular music. Released in 2002 in an updated
Second Edition, this course today remains the leading guitar method in the world; it has
taught millions of people how to play.
Hal Leonard continued to grow throughout the 1970s and in 1980 made the giant leap
into popular music print publishing when it established a unique and very close
relationship with Chappell Music, the world's largest music publisher. Shortly thereafter,
Hal Leonard increased its presence in virtually every music print market around the
world. As a result, facilities in both Milwaukee and Winona were vastly expanded to
accommodate corporate growth.
In 1985, Hal Leonard
was purchased from the original founders by an internal management team led by Mardak. Since then,
it has experienced consistent, dramatic growth due to creative, innovative and aggressive publishing
Today, Hal Leonard Corporation, led by Chairman and CEO Keith Mardak and President Larry Morton,
is the world leader in the music print industry. The company produces sheet music, songbooks, and
method book/CD packs for all instruments, as well as band and choral arrangements, reference books,
instructional DVDs, music software, apps, e-books, magazines, children's music products and more.
In its more than 200,000 available titles, Hal Leonard represents in print some of the world's
best known and most respected artists, such as: Adele, Aerosmith, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Bon
Jovi, Michael Bublé, Johnny Cash, Eric Clapton, Kelly Clarkson, Coldplay, John Coltrane, Miley Cyrus,
Miles Davis, Neil Diamond, the Doors, the Eagles, Green Day, Josh Groban, Jimi Hendrix, Michael
Jackson, Billy Joel, Elton John, Robert Johnson, Norah Jones, B.B. King, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Bruno
Mars, Pat Metheny, Van Morrison, Mumford & Sons, Nirvana, Ozzy Osbourne, Pantera, Katy Perry,
Tom Petty, Pink Floyd, the Police, Elvis Presley, Prince, Queen, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M.,
Frank Sinatra, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, U2, Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Who, Hank
Williams, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Frank Zappa and hundreds of others, plus the music of Irving
Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Disney, George Gershwin, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Henry Mancini, Motown,
Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim and John Williams.
Hal Leonard has also become one of the primary distributors of music-related gear. Thanks to
its state-of-the-art warehouse and distribution facility in Winona, Minnesota, many music industry
leaders have turned to Hal Leonard to help them reach retailers around the globe. The company now
distributes and markets everything from musical instruments, recording hardware and software, to
music stands, accessories and gifts.
Hal Leonard products are sold in more than 65 countries throughout the world through a large
network of distributors. Domestically, the company markets its product to more than 7,500 music
stores in the United States and Canada through a team of 45 sales representatives. Hal Leonard
products are also sold through mass merchants and in bookstores, gift shops, toy stores, television
shopping networks, department stores, electronics stores, via specialty retailers, and in many other
locations, as well as on the internet. The company currently operates many leading music websites,
Hal Leonard is headquartered in Milwaukee, WI and also has domestic offices in Winona, MN; New Jersey; Boston; and Nashville; and offices abroad in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
A summary of Hal Leonard corporate history from the Milwaukee Public Television interview with
CEO Keith Mardak for their show "I Remember Milwaukee."