MEDIA / LESSONS / Milestones in the Recent History of the Marimba

Milestones in the Recent History of the Marimba


The marimba is scheduled for its North American debut in Buffalo at the Pan-American Exposition. Cancelled due to the assassination of President McKinley in that city.


John Calhoun Deagan in Chicago begins to make xylophones and orchestra bells with chromatic keyboards and resonators.


The Hurtado Brothers tour North America with their chromatic marimba with wooden box-resonators.


The J. C. Deagan Company begins manufacturing of chromatic marimbas.


Clair Omar Musser conducts 100 marimbas at the Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago. They perform arrangements of Wagner’s Pilgrims’ Chorus, Chopin, Elgar and Dvorak’s New World Symphony.


The 100 member International Marimba Symphony Orchestra performs to startled reviews in Europe and at Carnegie Hall in New York City.


Brass resonators on marimbas are replaced by cardboard tubes due to rationing of metals for war effort. Marimba range begins to shrink from five octaves to three and a half octaves in response to desire for portability.


Leopold Stokowski toys with idea of adding bass marimba to the string bass section of the orchestra because of its full bass tone. After borrowing one from Clair Omar Musser, wisely decides against it.


Clair Omar Musser breaks away from J. C. Deagan Company over issue of rehiring WWII veterans and founds Musser Marimba Company. Creston Concertino composed.


Vida Chenoweth performs first solo marimba recital of all original marimba compositions. Commissions and performs Robert Kurkaƕs Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.


Popularity of marimba increases as college music departments develop percussion programs, marimba ensembles and percussion ensembles. Important Japanese composers write works for Keiko Abe.

1970’s and 80’s

Introduction of one-handed rolls, birch handles, single independent strokes and other new techniques by Leigh Howard Stevens spurs a burst of player and composer interest in marimba as solo instrument in USA and Europe.

1980’s and 90’s

Marimba range begins to expand again to size that was common in 1920’s (4 1/2 to 5 octaves). Major composers begin to write for marimba: Druckman, Miki, Reich, Schwantner, Berio, Henze.


Revival of the marimba orchestra culminates in a performance at West Point, New York on March 28, 1998 with 134 marimbas on stage being simultaneously played upon by 184 marimbists, conducted by Dr. Frederick Fennell.