‘Cultivating interest in music:’ International sheet music business Hal … – Winona Daily News

Everyday thousands of books of sheet music, from Mozart to Metallica to Taylor Swift and everything in between, are printed at Hal Leonard in Winona and shipped to the hands of musicians around the world.

The company Hal Leonard was founded in 1947 as a music store in Winona after the dance band Hal Leonard, which included Harold “Hal” Edstrom, his brother Everett “Leonard” Edstrom, and their friend Roger Busdicker, broke up.

Everett started the music store while Harold and Busdicker directed award-winning high school bands in Winona that branched out from the typically played classical music into arrangements of popular music sought by band directors across the country.

During an educational trip to New York City’s Tin Pan Alley to learn about copyright, the company’s founders returned with publishing rights to “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now.” Since then, Hal Leonard has grown to become the world’s largest print music publisher.

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The 76-year-old company operates two main facilities — its corporate headquarters in Milwaukee and a state-of-the-art administration, production and distribution facility in Winona. Additionally, the company has U.S. offices in Boston, Austin, San Francisco and abroad in Australia, Belgium, China, Germany, the Netherlands, India, Italy, France and the United Kingdom.

Thomas Spitzer makes adjustments while he stitches the bindings to piano books at Hal Leonard in Winona.

Jacob Shafer

Senior Vice President of Winona Operations Brent Halverson said the business is proud of its start in Winona and its ability to maintain its local presence.

“I just think it’s an exciting business, but it’s also something that has been a long-term pride,” Halverson said. “To be a part of this community, like a cornerstone business like many businesses that started here, is something we’re happy to be a part of.”

In Winona, Hal Leonard employs around 250 people. Halverson, who started as a temporary employee 37 years ago, said many employees have been with the company for decades.

“One of the things I always feel like makes a really big difference here, as the team that’s here, is that the workforce here is very collaborative,” Halverson said. “I feel like the people that take the pride here and stay at Hal Leonard are people with musical interest. Anything from playing in a bar band to dabbling on the guitar to someone who just loves to listen to music but it makes them feel like they’re part of it. And they are, and they’re global now.”

Halverson credits the company’s innovation for part of its longevity. From old-fashioned plate burning and changing them by hand to today’s automation and digital printing, Hal Leonard has grown into the next generation of tools that make work for its employees easier.

Manda Legrave at Hal Leonard

Before these marching band pieces are shipped out for high school bands to play in a parade, Manda Legrave checks their quality while assembling them. 

Jacob Shafer

“We’re not just selling books, I think you’re cultivating interest in music and I think that’s really important,” Halverson said. “I think it’ll be interesting to see the future as the digital age comes but I think we certainly will follow our customers’ needs.”

With music books that range from beginner piano songbooks to popular vocal arrangements in its catalog, among Hal Leonard’s top 15 best-selling books, nine are compositions from Taylor Swift.

Bill Stockhausen, Hal Leonard’s Vice President of Fulfillment and Warehouse Services, works a couple blocks away from the printing operation and oversees the around 3,200 orders leaving the company’s 360,000 square-foot warehouse daily.

“I think we all have a sense of pride with both the company and the town that the name Hal Leonard is everywhere in the world but starts here,” Stockhausen said.

Stockhausen said when Hal Leonard’s warehouse was designed, the company looked to its employees for their input on how to design a workspace that best fits them.

“We have to adapt and strive for continuous improvement,” Stockhausen said. “Listening to the people we work with has made the outcomes better for them.”

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