Hal Leonard Corporate History
In the late 1930s in Winona, Minnesota, the late Harold "Hal" Edstrom, his brother Everett "Leonard" Edstrom and their friend Roger Busdicker had formed a very popular dance band. Concerned that their conservative father wouldn't approve of using the family name for a band, 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."
The company Hal Leonard 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 classical 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 US wanted their arrangements. They started to mimeograph copies and sell them. They realized that to successfully (and legally!) 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 an entirely new industry.
Hal Leonard continued to grow and expand into other areas, including instructional materials and repertoire for every instrument, voice, and ensemble.
In 1970, Keith Mardak and associates started a new division of Hal Leonard called Learning Unlimited to create the first book/audio music instructional products. This division soon outgrew the company, and Mardak was named general manager for all of Hal Leonard. In 1985, an internal management team led by Mardak purchased Hal Leonard from its original founders. A new corporate headquarters was opened in Milwaukee, WI, in addition to expanding the Winona facilities to handle the company's dramatic growth. Under Mardak's leadership, Hal Leonard dramatically increased its publishing output and pursued a series of acquisitions, leading to an unprecedented period of expansion for the company.
Today, Hal Leonard is the world's largest print music publisher, with the #1 methods for learning guitar, piano, band, orchestra, plus publications for learning virtually every instrument imaginable. In addition, they distribute other esteemed publishers including Berklee Press, Boosey & Hawkes, DeHaske Publications, Faber Piano Adventures, G. Henle Verlag, Robert King, Peermusic Classical, G. Schirmer, Schott, Willis, and many more. See all of our publishing partners here.
In addition to still being the leader in printed music publications, Hal Leonard has also led the way in digital music technology. Hal Leonard developed SheetMusicDirect.com in 1997 (four years BEFORE iTunes!) with thousands of songs arranged for different instruments available for download. GuitarInstructor.com followed, featuring online video guitar lessons and tab arrangements for thousands of songs. In addition, the company expanded by purchasing Noteflight.com, a music composition website, and Groove3, a website providing online training for music technology.
In addition, Essential Elements Interactive was added to the Essential Elements Band and Strings methods which added a valuable online component to benefit both instructors and students. Over a half million students access EEi during the school year.
Hal Leonard continued the tradition of innovation in print music with the development of MyLibrary, a cloud-based portal for their books with online content. Customers who purchase books with online audio, access the content online using the unique code inside each book. Audio can be streamed or downloaded and includes PLAYBACK+, a multi-functional audio player that allows you to slow down audio without changing pitch, set loop points, change keys, and pan left or right.
In 2020, Hal Leonard launched their own proprietary streaming e-book format: Hal Leonard Digital Books. These interactive, cloud-based publications were designed especially for musicians and include access to embedded video or audio on many titles.
Hal Leonard launched Essential Elements Music Class in 2019 to provide a cloud-based, online resource for general music education complete with songs, lesson resources, ukulele and recorder lesson plans, and many more resources for the music educator.
In its catalog of more than one million available titles, Hal Leonard represents many of the world's best known and most respected publishers, artists, songwriters, arrangers and musical instrument manufacturers. Its products are sold in more than 65 countries throughout the world through Hal Leonard offices and a large network of distributors.
Hal Leonard operates out of two main facilities - its corporate headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and a state-of-the-art administration, production and distribution facility in Winona, Minnesota. The company also has offices abroad in Australia, Belgium, China, Germany, the Netherlands, India, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom in London and Bury St. Edmunds.
The hundreds of Hal Leonard employees around the world remain dedicated to providing the very best in music products and services to bring the joy of making music to everyone!