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The Cecil B. Leeson Saxophone Collection and Archive

Cecil B. Leeson

Highlights of the Collection...

The Cecil B. Leeson Collection includes 30 saxophones and 9 other woodwind instruments.   Notable among the saxophones are five made by Adolphe Sax between 1860-1878, the Evette & Schaeffer bass saxophone played in all the commercial recordings made by the Six Brown Brothers, and two Martin saxophones, one played by Leeson for the American Premiere of the Glazounoff Concerto with José Iturbi and the Rochester Philharmonic (January 13, 1939) and the other for the first Town Hall (New York) recital given by a saxophonist (February 5, 1937).  Saxophones by Besson, Buescher, Conn, Couesnon, Leblanc, Mahillon, Selmer, and H. N. White are also included.

Autograph manuscripts of a number of twentieth-century composers who wrote major saxophone works for Leeson are included in the archives.  Among these are works by Paul Creston, Morris Knight, Lawson Lunde, Edvard Moritz, Burnet Tuthill, Robert Sherman, Elie Siegmeister, Leon Stein, Jaromir Weinberger, and others.

The Leeson Archives also include Leeson's scrapbooks, correspondence, hundreds of photographs, sound recordings, programs, and other documentary materials.

The Leeson Collection and Archives also includes sixteen instruments, photographs, and correspondence from the Hewitt A. Waggener Saxophone Collection.   Waggener's correspondence with Tom Brown (Six Brown Brothers), a lifelong friend, is also preserved in this archive.   It was Waggener who collected four of the Adolphe Sax saxophones that are part of the Leeson Collection. These instruments were donated to Ball State University in 1971 by Waggener's daughter, Margaret (Peggy) L. Gould, and were later restored courtesy of the former G. Leblanc Corporation of Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Archival materials from both the Conn and Buescher Companies of Elkhart, Indiana, preserved by Leeson, are available in the NMM's Musical Instrument Manufacturers' Archive.

The Cecil B. Leeson Collection was transferred from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, to the NMM in May 1994, with the concurrence of Cecil Leeson's son, Tom.

About the Collector...

Cecil Leeson (1902-1989), a pioneer American saxophonist who had more than fifty works written for him, donated his collection to Ball State University, where he had been a member of the music department faculty, in 1977.  Leeson was an advocate of the saxophone as an instrument capable of the highest degree of artistic expression, as well as one of the first musicologists and pedagogues of the instrument.  He was a soloist with the New York Philharmonic, the Rochester Philharmonic, the Montreal Symphony, and others, as well as the first saxophonist to give a Town Hall recital in New York.

About Hewitt Allen Waggener...

Hewitt ("Doc") Waggener (b. Dawson, Nebraska, November 1, 1879-d. Santa Monica, California, May 21, 1972) was a physician and surgeon in Omaha, Nebraska, during the 1910s and early ’20s. To help pay for his education, while attending Creighton Medical School, Doc played saxophone with various musical groups in the area. Waggener eventually started his own saxophone ensemble, which included seven other amateur players from the Omaha area. Their performances were similar to Tom Brown's legendary blackface saxophone/minstrel group, The Six Brown Brothers. Waggener's group was active through the early 1920s, performing on a weekly basis in the Omaha area. As his passion for the saxophone grew, Waggener eventually befriended several leading professionals of the day, including Tom Brown and later, Cecil Leeson.

Doc Waggener and his family relocated to Los Angeles in 1925, where he continued to work in the medical profession. Although he performed on the saxophone occasionally, Waggener eventually became more interested in recording industry. In the 1950s, Waggener built a state-of-the-art recording studio in his Los Angeles home, where he worked with film score composer, Max Steiner, and other area musicians.

A lifelong saxophone collector, Doc Waggener was particularly interested in acquiring examples made by the instrument’s Belgian inventor. In fact, he owned at least five different instruments made by Adolphe Sax during his lifetime. A collection of four of these was loaned to Cecil Leeson and eventually donated to Ball State University in 1971 by Waggener’s daughter. They were transferred to the NMM in 1994.

Tom Brown and Hewitt A. Waggener
Photo taken in Omaha, September 1922
Click on image to enlarge

Instruments from the Leeson Collection are on display in the Everist Gallery.  Other instruments and the archival materials are available for examination by appointment (see access guidelines) in the NMM's study-storage areas.

Go to Checklist of Saxophones Made by Adolphe (Antoine-Joseph) and Adolphe Edouard Sax

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Most recent update:   March 1, 2014

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