RPMDA Reflections from the NAMM Historical Project

by Dan Del Fiorentino, NAMM

One of the bonuses of attending a gathering at RPMDA is the insight you gain, often when you least expect it.  We all expect to gather great ideas at the Best Ideas session and all the wonderful educational programs but learning a different approach to customer service at the bar is a little more unexpected.

The reason?  It’s the people.  Over the past twenty years I have only missed a few conventions because this gathering is important to me.  It is also important to my business, which is documenting the history of our industry.  As the Music Historian for NAMM, I am head of the Oral History program in which I conduct one-on-one interviews for this growing library resource.  Over the years I have been able to capture interviews with several of the founders of RPMDA and most of the recipients of the coveted Dorothy Award.  I have also been able, thanks to this gathering, to record the insight and career highlights of such industry pillars as Hayden Connor from Carl Fischer, Keith Mardak from Hal Leonard, Morty and Iris Manus from Alfred and Sandy Feldstein. It should be noted that the first female recipient of the NAMM Oral History Service Award was RPMDA’s own Madeleine Crouch, which is why I always feel going to RPMDA is a family reunion!

Today I would like to reflect on Bill Heese, who was among the first to greet me at my first convention.  Bill has since been a strong support and mentor to me as I eagerly soak up the history so important to him and which became important to me.  Bill was never shy in introducing me and encouraging others to sit with me for their interview.  He would often say, “This is important for our history.  And Dan does not bite.”

Bill was not only a mainstay in the industry for over 30 years, he has been a tireless promoter of the history of music publishing. Bill’s love of the print world may only be equaled by his love of baseball, making it fitting that the NAMM Resource Center created a legacy collection named after Bill that seeks to collect photographs and other materials depicting baseball stars playing musical instruments (images of Babe Ruth playing the sax and one with Dizzy Dean on tuba!).  I am grateful to RPMDA for allowing me to take part in these annual events and in getting to know great mentors such as Bill.

Bill Heese was born in the Bronx, New York to a family with a great appreciation for music.  As Bill grew, so did his passion for music.  Throughout his career, Bill volunteered for leadership positions in several industry associations with the goal of strengthening music publishing.  The Music Publishers Association asked Bill to serve on its Board of Directors and while on the board he helped establish their scholarship program.  He also was an early advocate for RPMDA and worked long and hard to grow the membership and importance of the yearly conference.  Bill and his friend Danny Rocks both felt the history of RPMDA should be preserved and were among the first to approach NAMM to ensure Oral History interviews were captured at the annual RPMDA gatherings.

Bill’s role as rep for Carl Fischer grew through the years and before retiring Bill was the Vice President of Special Projects for Carl Fischer in New York.  Along the way Bill made countless friends with dealers across the country and fellow publishers around the world.  Among those he worked very closely with for years was the late Sandy Feldstein.  In reflection of his career, Bill always felt the satisfaction he received in the work he did came down to the people he worked with and the friendships he created.

I can’t wait to see who I will get to interview next!




1 thought on “RPMDA Reflections from the NAMM Historical Project”

  1. Thanks for the article on Bill Heese. He was a true mentor in my early days at Flesher-Hinton Music in Denver. Danny Rocks was also a great help as were many others. Joe Keith would also be a good interview. He got me involved with RPMDA at the first convention in New Mexico and I made most of them for the next several years. The people were always friendly and sharing. Learned a great deal at lunches and social get togethers.

    I look forward to the next interview. Ken Anderson

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