Leroy Anderson was an American composer of short, light concert pieces, many of which were introduced by the Boston Pops Orchestra under the direction of Arthur Fiedler. John Williams described him as “one of the great American masters of light orchestral music.”
Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts to Swedish parents, Anderson was given his first piano lessons by his mother, who was a church organist. He continued studying piano at the New England Conservatory of Music. In 1925 Anderson entered Harvard University, where he studied theory with Walter Spalding, counterpoint with Edward Ballantine, harmony with George Enescu, composition with Walter Piston and double bass with Gaston Dufresne. He also studied organ with Henry Gideon. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1929 and Master of Arts in 1930.
Anderson continued studying at Harvard, working towards a PhD in German and Scandinavian languages. During this time he was also working as organist and choir director at the East Milton Congregational Church, leading the Harvard University Band, and conducting and arranging for dance bands around Boston. His arranging work came to the attention of Arthur Fiedler in 1936 and Anderson was asked to show Fiedler any original compositions. Anderson’s first work was Jazz Pizzicato in 1938. Fiedler suggested that a companion piece be written and thus Anderson wrote Jazz Legato in 1938.
In 1942 Leroy Anderson joined the U.S. Army, and was assigned to Iceland as a translator and interpreter. Later in 1945 he was assigned to the Pentagon as Chief of the Scandinavian Desk of Military Intelligence. But his duties did not prevent him from composing, and in 1945 he wrote “The Syncopated Clock” and “Promenade”. Anderson was a reserve officer and was recalled to active duty for the Korean War. In 1951 Anderson wrote his first hit, “Blue Tango”, earning a Golden Disc and the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts.