Musser Marimba Orchestra Project

The 1933-1934 World’s Fair was held in Chicago and is known as “A Century of Progress International Exposition.” Clair Omar Musser organized a 100 piece Marimba Orchestra for the fair. Deagan produced 100 specially made marimbas for the performances, each marked with a plaque on the front with the player’s name and serial number. To be part of the orchestra, each player needed to purchase the instrument that they would perform on. The Century of Progress marimba was the first to contain dummy resonators.

During his lifetime, Steve Weiss became very interested in Deagan and the marimba orchestra, and has started to collect the original Deagan marimbas (we still collect Deagan instruments), as well as any information regarding the performances. The names of all original player’s appears to have been lost by history. The goal of this project is to research and publish the names of all 100 original players for the benefit of the percussion community.

A Century of Progress Marimba Orchestra Members

  • Clair Omar Musser (Conductor and Soloist)
  • Jimmy (James) Namaro (Assistant Conductor)
  • Frank Bailey (Serial 44)
  • Lewis Wadsworth Gallagher (Serial 70)
  • Rosamond Golden
  • Leona Hubbard
  • Violet Trede Endee
  • Gordon Shaffer Griffin
  • Ruth Stuber Jeanne
  • Eddy Kozak
  • Lorraine Adeline Krause
  • Clement F. Lochner
  • Harold August Maves (Serial 78)
  • Patricia Ann Millington
  • Evelyn Marion Neal
  • Velma Arline Sandt
  • Kathryn Schmitz
  • Johnny Blizzard
  • Flora Charlotte Bell
  • Lucretia Bair
  • Elisworth Bates
  • Ruth Buehler
  • Mabel Sperry
  • Rudolph Willmann
  • Daniel Charles Forst (Serial 75)
  • Russell Terry Simmons (Serial 4A)
  • Mary Louise Witham (Serial 00)
  • Rudolph Robert Willmann (Serial 55)
  • Rose Mae Wise (Serial 73)
  • Burton Lynn Jackson
  • Novarino DeStefanis (Serial 00)

Chicago Tribune, Aug. 20, 1933

An unusual musical organization is now appearing nightly in the court of the Hall of Science. It is a marimba band of 100 pieces directed by Clair Omar Musser.

The marimba has an interesting history. Apparently it is one of the oldest musical instruments. There are records indicating it existed, naturally in a much cruder form, as long ago as 2000 B.C. In its modern form it becomes a tricky affair, a matter of careful workmanship, of tuning by mathematical devices that not only give the proper pitch to the fundamental tones but to their overtones, partials, harmonics as well.

The present band began its enrollment on Jan. 1, 1932. From the start it was planned as a feature of A Century of Progress, but not until now has it been able to appear in public. Several numbers have been specially composed for the organization, and all the others appear as special arrangements. Its membership is cosmopolitan to a high degree. One of the players, Kathryn Schmitz, comes from Berlin, Germany; another, Jimmy Namaro, is a native of London, England; George Hamilton Green comes from New York, Lorraine Adeline Krause from Washington, D.C.; Leona Hubbard from California. Some thirty other states are represented in the membership.

Chicago Tribune, Edward Moore, Aug. 22, 1933

An uncommonly entertaining musical organization is playing nightly in the court of the Hall of Science at A Century of Progress this week. It is a marimba band of one hundred pieces directed by Clair Omar Musser, and in many ways it is the most interesting group of music makers that has so far had any connection with A Century of Progress.

The marimba is one of the oldest musical instruments of which there is a record. Yet, this battery of one hundred, with their graduated, glistening resonating pipes, is startlingly in accord with modern ideas of line and mass. Not only that, but that have what will be to most people unexpected resources as makers of music.

As the marimbas are played under Mr. Musser’s direction, the have inspiring rhythm, they are capable of almost anything in spacious harmonic chords, they make melody in all ways from the snappy staccato to long sustained curves of melody, the have a wide range of expression, and an equally wide range of tonal quality. In other words, they are capable of playing a program in a highly persuasive fashion.

In the Pilgrim’s chorus, for instance, out of Wagner’s “Tannhauser” overture they produce a tone which for sheer loveliness you will hardly hear surpassed anywhere. It is like a group of ideal French horns ideally played, in fact better played than any other orchestra or band is able to play them. Mr. Musser leaves off conducting once in the program to turn to his own marimba and play a solo part in Thomas’ “Mignon” orchestra. He is a virtuoso of the instrument, playing it as Horowitz plays the piano or Heifetz the violin.

Elsewhere you will hear some music specifically written for the group, Rosales’ Bolero for one, which is not Ravel’s famous work of the same name, but a good piece just the same, also an arrangement of a suite from “Carmen,” also made with the organization in mind. The concerts are drawing enormous crowds, just as always happens when something musically attractive goes on at A Century of Progress. They are confidently recommended.

A Century of Progress Image Gallery

If you have any information, pictures, videos, or audio associated with the Century of Progress Marimba Orchestra, please contact info@steveweissmusic.com.

Comments




  • Bonita Dissinger

    My Aunt was in the group that went to Europe . She was also the youngest in the group!!! I have that marimba, mallets and group picture!!!

  • Rosalind Barris

    My Uncle, James J. Vacanti, proudly claimed to be a member of this group at the 1933 World's Fair. He had a photo displayed in his music room next to his marimba. He was visible in the photo. He sold the marimba to a music student at Fredonia State University. He died in 1978 in Dunkirk, NY.

  • Mark Goldberg

    3 1/2 octave belonged to Cordella Luise Weisenburn( on the plate) I played her marimba at her funeral about 8 years ago and her son gave it to me here in Orlando.

  • Florentin Morel

    Hello! I'm a french student of the Paris-Sorbonne University and I do researches about the Musser's marimba orchestra, in particular the Europe Tour of Musser. I saw the message of Michael H Johnson who talked about his father. Is it possible to contact him ? I would like to ask him few questions... Thank you very much ! Florentin Morel

  • Michael H Johnson

    My father, Frank Herbert Johnson, was a member of the IMSO in 1935 and made the trip to Europe. His King George marimba was in our basement in Anderson Indiana throughout my childhood and was sold around 1976. I am interested if it was ever restored and where it might be located? Michael Johnson

  • Barb MacDonald

    My Mother, Geraldine Boswell, owned a COP marimba and was a member of the COP marimba orchestra. She was also a member of the IMSO and toured Europe with that marimba orchestra. Her COP marimba was sold to finance the purchase of her King George marimba - serial #77. We still own the beautiful King George. According to original correspondence in her files, the COP marimba was sold in November 1934 for $250 to Mr. Charles F. Forst of Arthur Avenue, Brookfield, Illinois. The original Bill of Sale for the purchase of the COP marimba, dated Feb. 17, 1930, indicates the instrument was purchased for $270 with a credit of $100 allowed for the trade-in of a Deagan model #352 instrument. Unfortunately no serial number was recorded for the COP instrument on any of the correspondence.

  • Brad Kozak

    As you might intuit by my last name, I'm Eddy Kozak's son. When I stumbled upon this site, I thought I'd throw in my two cents...Here's a link to a photo on Facebook (search "Eddy Kozak" on FB, and you'll find his memorial site): https://scontent-dft4-2.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/532194_140888679370031_1529469469_n.jpg?oh=66e3957ad0a02d9f6113c8f0da7ea798&oe=58865F36 As you can see, this is my dad playing his Century of Progress marimba for a publicity shot. He played this instrument all the way through WWII, where he served as Admiral Nimitz personal musician. After the war, he sold it (no idea to whom) and purchased a larger "Diana" model Deagan, that he used to tour with Xavier Cugat, and perform with Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason. Of interest - somewhere along the way, he either had made or was given a scale model of a 4 1/2 octave Century of Progress instrument. It's made primarily of brass (with green mother of pearl laminations) and stands about 4 1/2" tall and 11" wide. It even has a brass plaque on the front, but it reads "Built by Peter J. Zeigelmeier." From the photo, I can't tell what number my dad's instrument was, but if anybody knows what happened to it, I'm sure both Sharon Voorhees and I would both love to get more info on it. There can't be that many 3 1/2 octave Century of Progress marimbas out there... Brad

  • Sondra Schachtmeister

    I have one of the Century of Progress marimbas that I am interested in selling. I Iive in Houston, Texas. I have owned this marimba about 56 years and played from 2nd grade through high school. If you know anyone interested in this instrument, please contact me at schachtmeister@sbcglobal.net.

  • Scott Cameron

    I am that local marimba player, and I want to sincerely thank Dave (below) for his generous gift. The original owner of this beautiful COP marimba was Civilla Jane Foutz, and as Dave mentioned, it's #66.

  • david appleton

    I have my mom's #66 century of progress marimba she aquired sometime in the late 30s. She played it for many years. Now its in disuse but intact. Hope to donate it to a local marimba player in southern MO.

  • Steve Brase

    Steve, I just discovered your website and we have some information for you on the Century of Progress Marimba Band in 1933 and 1934. My mother in law, Charlene Louise (Fuller) Hamilton was one of the marimba players in this band. She joined the band shortly after graduating high school in Chicago as she was only 18 years old for most of 1933. She was also in King George Marimba Band a couple of years later and made the trip to Europe. She had the King George marimba in her home all the years until her death and played it frequently for her children. It is now in the house of one of her grand daughters and is still in great shape and being played. However, we don't know what happened to her Century of Progress marimba. Matter of fact we didn't even realize there was a second marimba until in the late 1990's and Charlene had already lost too much of her memory to tell us what happened to it. So it is a mystery, we'd like to solve. We'd love to get it back into the family. The only way we even know she had one is that we have the brass nameplate. It is nicely mounted on a wooden backplate and stand. She had serial number 4. We've done a bit of research on this over the past 10 years, including visiting with Gilberto Serna in the old Deagan building in Chicago. I'd be happy to share any information we have about this.

  • Jamie Flores

    I own Ruth Stuber's number 89 marimba that she played in the 1933 Century of Progress Orchestra at the Chicago's World Fair. I have owned this since 1963. I have the marimba with the plaque intact. Thank you.

  • Kirby

    One of these marimbas was (and probably still is) located at Maine South High School in Park Ridge, IL. I last played on it about 8 years ago. I can't recall the name on the plaque so I don't know if it is already on your list but I'm sure you could call the music department and ask.

  • Janet Myers

    My father, Edward Prindle, played in the IMSO. He was 16 years old. His King George marimba was donated to Concordia College. They have several of these beautiful instruments. I am very proud of my father. He passed away in 2008 but I used to love to hear him play Flight of the Bumblebee on his marimba.

  • Sean Lowery

    I have come to own one of these instruments. My father was a student at Ithaca College when Musser was there. He came to own it around 1956. The one that I have has no engraving on the triangular plaque. Is it possible that it was a prototype and not used at the fair? What reason would there be that it is not engraved?

  • Chris

    One of the 4.5 octave models is currently for sale on eBay. The listing said the original owner was Karl Bailey, an undertaker who lived in Huntington, Indiana. The current owner wrote that Karl, his sister, parents, and some cousins / aunts / uncles were all in the Century of Progress orchestra (the list above includes Frank Bailey, who must be related to Karl). Unfortunately, the original brass plaque with the name and serial number is missing, so can't confirm which number it is.

  • Jim Gordon

    Does anyone know the European itinerary of the 1935 Marimba Tour ? We are trying to determine if they played in England.

  • Chris

    Just saw a listing on eBay for a 3.5 octave Century of Progress marimba - looks like an antique store in Wisconsin ended up with it. Sadly it's missing the front plaque, but otherwise it looks like it's in pretty good shape. Hope it goes to a good home.

  • Barbara Jo Kingsley

    My Dad played in a 100 member marimba orchestra that traveled to Europe, so I think it is this one. His name is John Ray Clark, II. He was from Rolling Prairie West Virginia. He played the marimba for pleasure until his death at 87, He taught at Michigan Technological University and was friends with someone in the music department who coveted the marimba. My dad had promised him the marimba so my mother sold it to him for $3,000 before she moved to Alaska. I was there and started to cry. He promised me he would take very good care of it. I don't know his name and my mother doesn't remember. Supposedly, at one time, my dad had one of the wooden keys fixed by the last remaining person who was employed by the company that made them. As Children, we all loved listening to Dad play his marimba every evening, his way of winding down after a day at work. Good Luck in tracking down all 100 marimbas!!

  • Adam Townley-Wren

    I have always loved these century of progress marimbas and have played at least five of them over the years. They keep finding me somehow. And now, I am happy to report, I am the caretaker of Concert Grand Marimba #41 originally played and owned by Richard Kemp Smith. I acquired it from his daughter, Vicky. He owned it and cherished it until his death at age 94 two years ago. It is pristine and plays perfectly. I am thrilled to have the honor of caring for such a beautiful instrument. It has it's original music stand also. I think we should get as many of the original instruments together for a concert in Chicago someday. Certainly at the one hundred year anniversary. How cool would that be?

  • Carol Bence

    My mother, and my aunt from Lancaster, PA were members of the original International 100 Piece Marimba Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Clair Omar Musser. They each had a King George marimba and traveled to Europe in concert in 1935 and played in Carneige Hall that same year. I have the photos and the complete collection of works performed on their world tour contained in Books I, II, III, IV, V and the solos. My aunt who is 93 told me she and my mother did not play at the exposition.

  • Kurt Grissom

    Steve, The Hershey Percussion shop in York, PA has "Jean Luella Strickhouser", 3.5 octave (F-C) COP marimba for sale. Kurt

  • Marcia

    I have Clement F. Lochner's Concert Grand, serial number 38 from the Century of Progress 100 piece marimba band. It was bought in the 60's directly from Clement, who kept it in excellent conditon. Keys sound wonderful and are not worn. No work has ever been necessary. May also have some program & recording.

  • Chris

    I recently bought a 3.5 octave COP that belonged to Harold August Maves (Serial 78). It's in decent shape - the bars were re-tuned by Gilberto in 2011. Aside from a mid-range rattle in the frame / resonators, it sounds fantastic.

  • ken hilton

    My mother was a member of the marimba band at the exposition. We had that marimba and plaque that was on the marimba when I was growing up. Her name was Rosamond Golden at the time.

  • David Ross

    My mother (Marjorie Larew Ross) was a member of the orchestra. The marimba is not in the family but is still "around". She was just 14 in 1933 and made the European tour.

  • Kurt Grissom

    Steve, Here is a pic of Burton Lynn Jackson with his COP marimba: http://presto.arcade-museum.com/PRESTO-1940-2297/26/ Kurt

  • Kurt Grissom

    Steve, According to the Chicago Tribune, "Violet Trede Endee" (age 88) d.Dec. 29, 2004 was a member of the 1933 Century of Progress Marimba Orchestra. Kurt

  • sharron voorhees

    Eddy Kozak was my very first marimba teacher. I would love to know the number of his instrument and, if you know, what became of it? Can I buy copies of these photos anywhere? sharron V.

  • Cathi Buchanan

    I own the instrument for Ralph Kent Barne, Serial number 7A. My great-grandfather purchased it from Mr. Barne during the depression and it has been passed down from my grandmother to my father and now to me. It has all the original pieces except for lowest C which was replaced.

  • Steven

    I have a couple of scrapbooks from participants in the Musser Marimba Orchestra. I believe I have lists of all participants, and I can confirm Bob's suspicions - George Hamilton Green was certainly not one of them.

  • P Junque

    Have one bought from the original musician/owner in excellent condition. Also have a recording of the band and some literature. Will look up the name and serial and post soon. The rosewood keys look darker than the ones in your photo. It has always been well kept, played and no alterations of any kind. In excellent condition.

  • Dean Witten

    I own the serial #44 instrument built for "the Bailey Family". The cases have the name Frank Bailey stenciled on them, but not the triangular inscription plaque on the front. This instrument was willed to me by James Dotson of San Antonio Texas, one of the original members of the Eastman Marimba Masters.

  • Bob

    Hi Steve, We think it's very unlikely that George Hamilton Green took part in any of the Musser festival orchestras, including the COP, the newspaper promo notwithstanding. His name doesn't appear on any programs or formal documents that I know of. FYI, Gilberto Serna of Century Mallet Instruments in Chicago currently has a beautiful, nearly mint COP F to F 4 octave marimba in the showroom. I stopped by there after PASIC in Indianapolis and saw and played it. It has very complete documentation from the original owner, including original newspapers, bill of sale and other memorabilia accompanying it. You should buy it! Bob Becker

  • Tom Vanarsdel

    Musser Marimba Orchestra Project I would like to add the name Lucile Garner to the list. She was the only musician from Kentucky to participate. She was from Mayfield KY and also traveled to Europe with the group. I made copies of several newspaper clippings, as well as pictures, that her family had that mention her activities. When I was teaching at Murray State University (KY) (I'm retired now), a music student came to my office and told me about her relative who played marimba. At that time (several years ago) they still had her marimba, as well as the shipping trunks, but were not interested in selling them. I have no idea what kind of shape it's in or if they still have it. If you are interested, I'll see if I can track it down and get an address and phone number. If you want a copy of my copies, give me a contact person and address and I'll be happy to send them. The family may still have the originals. Dr. Tom Vanarsdel tom.vanarsdel@murraystate.edu

  • Nicholaus Meyera

    I own portions of one of the marimbas from the Century of Progress Marimba Orchestra. I have the original plaque packed away and will look for it and let you know the serial # and name on it.