Alfred Music is celebrating a particularly amazing milestone, as this year commemorates the company’s 95th year of helping the world experience the joy of making music. Ours is an industry with a very long history, but 95 is still a number you do not hear that often.
Since 1922, Alfred Music has been dedicated to helping people learn, teach, and play music. Alfred Music’s history began in New York City’s Tin Pan Alley, when Sam Manus, a violinist and importer of mood music for silent films, started a music publishing company and named it Manus Music. The company published primarily popular sheet music. In 1930, Sam acquired the music publisher, Alfred & Company, founded by Alfred Haase. Sam decided to combine the names and shortened it to Alfred Music, which the company is still known as today. Sam’s son, Morty began working for Alfred Music in the late 1940s and met his wife Iris at the company when the bookkeeper, Rose Kopelman, brought her daughter to work one day.
Morty reinvented Alfred Music in the 1950s. Inspired by the need for quality music education products, Morty, a clarinetist and pianist, oversaw the development of an instructional series for accordion, followed by books for guitar, piano, and recorder. Alfred Music was now more than just a sheet music publisher; the company was taking its first steps to becoming the leader in music education.
Alfred Music grew significantly over the next two decades and eventually exceeded the capacity of its New York headquarters. In 1975, the main office was relocated to Los Angeles, and the distribution center was moved to upstate New York.
Sharing their father’s vision, Morty’s sons, Ron and Steve joined the company. While continuing to develop the world’s leading instructional methods and performance music, they also expanded Alfred Music internationally, establishing offices in Australia, Germany, Singapore, and the UK. In 2005, Alfred Music purchased Warner Bros. Publications, acquiring the rights to the EMI Catalogue Partnership and beginning a long-term relationship with Warner/Chappell Music. Through this deal, Alfred Music gained the print publishing rights of legendary publishers such as M. Witmark & Sons, Remick Music Corp., and T.B. Harms, Inc. Among the vast EMI holdings are the Robbins and Leo Feist catalogs, plus film music from United Artists, MGM, and 20th Century Fox including The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ in the Rain, Doctor Zhivago, and many others.
Alfred Music currently has over 150,000 active titles and represents a wide range of well-known publications—from methods like Alfred’s Basic Guitar, Alfred’s Basic Piano Library, Premier Piano Course, Sound Innovations, and Suzuki, to artists like Bruce Springsteen, Bruno Mars, Cole Porter, Carrie Underwood, Garth Brooks, Jimmy Buffett, George and Ira Gershwin, John Lennon, Katy Perry, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and The Who, to brands like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz, Rolling Stone magazine, and Billboard.
Alfred Music is now also paired with MakeMusic, which is part of Peaksware Holdings, LLC portfolio of companies, to transform how music is composed, published, taught, learned, and performed by bringing together the leaders in educational music publishing and music technology.
In talking with Iris and Ron Manus about how Alfred Music got started, it was fun to hear about some of their most favorite memories:
Alfred Music: Iris, how did you and Morty meet?
Iris: As most people know, Morty’s father Sam owned a small music publishing company called Manus Music and mainly published Accordion music. My mother was the bookkeeper and as I had just started High School, I used to go in on Saturday to help out. Some Saturday’s Morty would come in as well. We only had five people in the entire office and that’s how we met and became friends and eventually married. The best move I ever made.
Alfred Music: Ron, how did you get your start at Alfred Music?
Ron: I started working at Alfred on November 30th, 1988. I had been working as a recording engineer at a studio in Hollywood for three years and had become disillusioned about my prospects and the life I would have with a career in the recording studio. This realization hit me really hard and was devastating to me as I had earned a degree and worked several years at this to only come to the realization this wasn’t the life for me. I moved back in with my parents while I figured out what to do with the rest of my life when my Dad came to me and said, “Why don’t you come work at Alfred for six months while you figure things out. It will put a little cash in your pocket and boost your self-esteem.” I started in sales working with Mike Green, David Hakim, and Keith McWhirter, under the sales management of Danny Rocks. Over the next six months, I got to know the retailers in our industry and began to make friendships. The people in our industry are what make it so great. I came to my Dad at the end of six months and said, “I figured out what I want to do for a career; I want to work at Alfred!” That was 29 years ago this year. I am so glad I took his advice.
Alfred Music: What are some of your best memories, Iris?
Iris: Morty and I made many good friends in the music business. We took trips with some, visited the homes of others and in general learned from and enjoyed all the RPMDA Conventions we attended. As we both loved what we were doing, we spent most of our days and nights together. And they were happy times.
Alfred Music: What are some of the reasons you think Alfred Music was able to become so successful and make it to this great milestone?
Ron: Quality! My Dad, Morty, always told me that quality was the most important thing. He would tell me, “If you make something great, it will sell forever, if you make something fair, it will sell once.” That is really what we have always been about. We try to make the best music educational products we can. We don’t always succeed, but it isn’t for lack of effort. Life is short and the way we see it, why not do something great with your life and leave a mark? We are always striving to be great and do amazing things. At Alfred Music we love what we do and it shows in the quality of our work and that translates to the fun we have doing it. We are proud and it shows.
Alfred Music: Are there any other thoughts you would to share?
Iris: Working a lifetime with music and musicians was not always milk and honey, but it was as close to heaven on earth as we could get.
Ron: I am inspired every day by stories that teachers, students, and parents share with us about their music-making journeys and I am so grateful that Alfred Music gets to play a part. It is up to us to ensure that every person who has the desire to learn has access to a quality music education. Because if we don’t, who will?