Cambridge, Massachusetts, Birthplace of Leroy Anderson

Cambridge Mass Harvard memorial_placque

Leroy Anderson's Home
12 Chatham Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Widener Library, Harvard University
Cambridge, Massacusetts

 

Leroy Anderson was born, raised and educated in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  His parents had immigrated as children to the United States from Sweden where they had been born.  They ultimately chose to make Cambridge their home.  Leroy Anderson was born on June 29, 1908 at 269 Norfolk Street in Cambridge.  His parents moved to 12 Chatham Street when he was one year old.

Leroy grew up in a household filled with music.  His mother Anna was a church organist and played piano. She taught Leroy to play piano as soon as he could reach the keys.  Once Leroy could play piano, he accompanied Anna on guitar.  Leroy’s father Brewer played mandolin and banjo.  In time, Leroy also learned to play organ, tuba, accordion and double bass.  Anna and Brewer both loved to sing.  They enjoyed singing in choruses as well as at home.

Leroy liked to say that he spent his entire academic life on one street in Cambridge – Broadway.  After graduating from Cambridge Grammar School in 1921, he attended Cambridge High and Latin School.  At CHLS Leroy wrote the commencement music for the graduating class three consecutive years.  He also studied piano at the New England Conservatory.  His parents wanted Leroy and his brother, Russell, to attend Harvard University on scholarships.  They both did.  Leroy’s father also wanted Leroy to learn trombone so that when he went to Harvard, he could march in front of the Harvard University Band.  Leroy not only marched in the front row but also became director of the band.

Leroy entered Harvard as a Freshman in 1925.  He received a B.A. magna cum laude in 1929.  Before Leroy graduated from Harvard University with a M.A. in Music in 1930, Harvard denied him a scholarship to study music in Europe with Nadia Boulanger because his band activities were not considered musically serious.  Thinking that he did not have a professional future in music, for several years he pursued a PhD in German and Scandinavian languages.  He was fluent in nine languages: English, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, German, French, Italian and Portuguese.  In 1936 the manager of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, fellow Harvard alumnus George Judd, asked Leroy to arrange Harvard songs for the Boston Pops Orchestra.

That led to his meeting Boston Pops Orchestra conductor Arthur Fiedler.  It was a turning point in his life and the beginning of a lifelong professional relationship.  Leroy composed the music, and Arthur introduced his new pieces at Boston Pops Orchestra concerts.

"Leroy Anderson wrote the music
that made the Boston Pops famous."


Harry Ellis Dickson
former Associate Conductor
Boston Pops Orchestra
from the book Backstage at the Pops

During the 1930's, Leroy worked as an arranger for popular dance orchestras, alongside his brother, Russell, who played double bass.  Together, they played in orchestras on cruise ships of the Norwegian Line crossing between New York and Scandinavia. Leroy said that he enjoyed making use of his fluency in Scandinavian languages by conversing with the crew who came from Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

In 1995 Harvard University named its new Harvard University Band headquarters the Anderson Band Center in honor of Leroy Anderson.

Cambridge, Massachusetts Mayor Michael Sullivan and the Cambridge City Council dedicated the corner of Chatham and Crawford Streets (Leroy’s boyhood home) as Leroy Anderson Square on May 31, 2003.


Also visit the official website for Leroy Anderson maintained by his family.