Claude Gordon Personal Papers and Music Instrument Collection, 1888-1992
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Brief Description: Consists of music, correspondence with Herbert L. Clarke and other notable trumpet artists, educational material, publicity and memorabilia, and performance contracts that highlight Claude Gordon's career as a musician and educator. This collection provides us with the original music that was performed through the venues of his career, educational material, and his unique collection of cornets, trumpets, and mouthpieces.
Held at:
The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music
236 Harding Band Building
1103 South 6th Street
Champaign, IL 61820 6223
Phone: 217-244-93093
Fax: 217-244-8695
Email: schwrtzs [at]
Record Series Number: 12/9/95
Created by: Gordon, Claude (1916-1996)
Volume: 49.0 cubic feet
Acquired: 06/19/2004.

The collection is organized in 6 series.

Series 1, Music, ca. 1900 - 1970s (Boxes 1 - 63)

Contains music from the Claude Gordon Big Band, the Gordon Family Orchestra, and other music of personal significance to Claude Gordon. Of particular interest are the arrangements Billy May wrote specifically for the Claude Gordon Big Band and are marked with an *. There was a numbering sequence that has been retained as a means of maintaining the original order. A cross reference between scores and parts is denoted by box and folder inside of the brackets; [ ]. There is an original handwritten Gordon Family Orchestra Program and two Family Orchestra music folders.

Series II, Correspondence, ca. 1920s - 1990s (Boxes 64 - 65)

Contains correspondence with notable trumpet artists, like Frank Kaderabek, and the Selmer Music Company. Correspondence between Herbert L. Clarke, his primary trumpet instructor, can be found in Series IV.

Series III, Claude Gordon Band Records, ca. 1950s - 1990s (Boxes 66 - 67, 82)

Contains Claude Gordon's performance contracts and publicity for the Claude Gordon Big Band. Of importance are announcements of his Educational Material with Carl Fischer. There are two recordings of his big band.

Series IV, Method Books, Lecture Notes and Presentations, Research Notes and Awards, and Music Instruments and Mouthpieces, ca. 1880s - 1990s (Boxes 68 - 84, 95 - 97, and Small Bore Mouthpiece Cases 1 - 2)

Contains Claude Gordon's educational output including the thought behind his method books and their various drafts. There is correspondence between Claude and Herbert L. Clarke, which led to his writing Brass Playing is No Harder Than Deep Breathing. Also contained in this body of material are Claude's personal method books of well-known methodologies and pedagogy. Claude Gordon held an annual trumpet and brass clinic and has kept his notes and video and audio tapes of these years. Claude Gordon also had a large collection of historical cornets and trumpets, and a series of historical mouthpieces. Of primary importance is the Besson prototype. A trumpet enthusiast will also take note of his Getzen trumpet that was primarily used by the Los Angelos studio artists in the 1960's. There is also a Selmer Paris trumpet that originally belonged to Louis Armstrong and then was passed on to Harry James. Claude Gordon also has a large collection of mouthpieces for both cornet and trumpet. A small collection of them have been cut in half, or spliced, so he could learn how they were made and why certain mouthpiece designs are more effective than others.

Series V, Photos, ca. 1920s - 1990s (Boxes 85 - 92)

Contains photos and memories from Claude Gordon's career as an artist of the trumpet and accordion, his education, and autographed photos from celebrities. Important photos include Arturo Sandoval and Frank Kaderabek. There is also a photo of Claude at age 16 playing the accordion in front of 25,000 people. Oversized photos include his big band and the Gordon Family Orchestra.

Series VI, Ephemera, ca. 1900s - 1990s (Boxes 93 - 94)

Contains Claude Gordon's Bible Education Manuscripts and other personal from his career and from his family. Of interest is a radio play written by his mother, Nelley Green.

Biographical Note for Gordon, Claude (1916-1996) :

Claude E. Gordon (1916 - 1996) was born into a family of musicians in Helena, Montana. He became a professional cornetist at the age of eight, a "private music instructor" at fourteen, and the leader of his own eight-piece jazz band by the time he was sixteen. He also was an accomplished accordion player and gave performances on both the cornet and accordion for radio shows in Great Falls, Montana. Claude moved to Los Angeles, California to study cornet with Herbert L. Clarke from 1936 through 1945. Gordon was hired by the May Company in April 1938 to record accordion commercials. Donald Ricardo hired Gordon on May 6, 1938 to play accordion with the NBC Orchestra. In 1939, Claude was cast as the gypsy accordion player in the Universal Studio's motion picture musical, An Old Spanish Custom, later renamed In Rhumba Land. During the 1950s Gordon emerged as one of Hollywood's frequently sought-after jazz trumpet soloists. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Gordon toured the United States with his orchestra, performing at such venues as Hollywood's Palladium Theater and New York City's Roseland Ballroom. Gordon's big band won the national title of "Best Dance Band" in a 1959 contest sponsored by the American Federation of Musicians.

By the mid-1960s Gordon rededicated his life to teaching, establishing himself as a leading educator of the cornet and trumpet. He taught at several different colleges and universities on America's west coast, and established a summer brass camp for music students of all ages and abilities. He wrote several method books: Systematic Approach to Daily Practice, Daily Trumpet Routines, and Physical Approach to Elementary Brass Playing, among others. It is reasonably safe to say that Herbert L. Clarke strongly influenced Gordon to write Brass Playing is No Harder Than Deep Breathing. Additionally, Gordon edited the Clarke-Gordon Technical Studies for Bass Clef, annotated Arban's Complete Conservatory Method for Trumpet, and created the educational videotape series, The Seven Natural Elements of Brass Playing. Gordon also worked with the Selmer Music Company in the 1980s to develop their "Claude Gordon" model, an instrument that became a "standard" for their modern trumpet design. The "Claude Gordon Method" as his books, video tapes and teachings are referred to, continues to influence new students of brass playing. It will continue to be his legacy.

Subject Index
Brass Instruments
Music - United States
Musical Instrument Collections
Musical Instrument Makers - Europe
Musical Instrument Makers - United States
Genres/Forms of Material
Languages of Materials
English [eng]
Acquisition Notes: Patricia Gordon, Big Bear Lake, California.  Gift