In 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 travelling 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.
The company grew and soon choral arrangements and a wider variety of band arrangements were added to their catalogue 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 best-selling 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 and marketing.
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 and videos, CD-ROMs and other music software, children's music products and more. In its more than 100,000 available titles, Hal Leonard represents in print some of the world's best known and most respected artists.
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 is headquartered in Milwaukee, WI and also has domestic offices in Winona, MN; New York; and Nashville; and offices abroad in Australia, China, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.