Sheets of music: Local collector to be featured at national conferenceYvonne McDonald opens one of the 35 binders filled with 150 pieces of sheet music apiece and turns the pages reflecting the history of music more than a century old.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
ELDRIDGE, N.D. — Yvonne McDonald opens one of the 35 binders filled with 150 pieces of sheet music apiece and turns the pages reflecting the history of music more than a century old.
Those are just the ones she will not part with.
Her favorite pieces to collect are those from Irving Berlin, the ragtime composer, who made a better living selling sheet music than as a performer.
She has about 1,500 sheets from Berlin, each one with a detailed cover and some with musical parts time forgot. Later reprints have lost some verses.
“For music collectors, a lot of them it’s more about the cover, the graphics on the cover,” McDonald said, “and there are some serious collectors who collect for the music itself.”
One of her treasures is a 1907 copy of “Marie from Sunny Italy.” Berlin’s fist published sheet only had 150 printed. Other copies of the same sheet have been known to sell between collectors for as much as $10,000 depending on condition and those bidding.
“I found mine at the bottom of a box in San Antonio and I just about had a heart attack,” McDonald said of rummaging through an antique store.
In total she has about 150,000 pieces of sheet music from ragtime, to classic movies, to patriotic songs, to just about everything else. Most are for the piano.
McDonald and her husband, Jack, have cut down on pianos they own, but their home outside of Jamestown in Eldridge still has three. She used to play every collectable sheet at first when she started collecting in 1987.
“The collectable music is a very small percentage of sheet music,” she said.
Her oldest piece dates back to 1849 and several collectable pieces will eventually be donated to local organizations, she said.
“You could put up a display of sheet music and illustrate the history of America,” she said of sheet music in general.
McDonald also has cataloged her collection, each piece in a physical card catalog and also in a digital database.
“I’m told it’s the best cataloged collection in the country, as far as I know I’m the only one card cataloged and I’m told I’m the only one who has a database,” she said.
About 20 friends McDonald has met over the years of collecting sheet music will be in Jamestown next weekend for the National Sheet Music Conference.
While McDonald likes Berlin, there will be collectors who focus on patriotic sheet music, possibly some with a focus on World War I-era music with Norman Rockwell illustrations on the cover and everything in between.
The event starts at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5, at the Arts Center. Sales start at 9 a.m. Saturday with speakers starting at 9:30 a.m.
The four speakers are Terry Perish from Indianapolis, Ind., who will discuss early ragtime gems rediscovered; Robert Grooves, Fargo, who will talk about surprising 19th century sheet music; Lee Schreiner, Rockford Ill., on the history of sheet music from 1830 to present day; and Rudolf Polt, Honolulu, Hawaii, on the 35 books he’s written on sheet music.
Sunday will feature an open house at McDonald’s music archives.
Admission each day is $5, and there will be ragtime music being played live on piano. For more details, call McDonald at 701-763-6144 or email at Yvonne@ daktel.com.
“I’ve found everything that I’ve desperately wanted and I’m sure I’ll run across something that makes me excited,” she said of the upcoming event.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org