Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) was an American composer who brought us such well-known pieces as Sleigh Ride and The Syncopated Clock. Born on June 29, 1908 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, his first exposure to music came from his mother, a church organist. He took organ lessons from his mother, and later studied piano and double bass. He started at Harvard University in 1925; his music theory professor, Walter Raymond Spaulding, was very involved with music education in the public schools, which led Anderson to compose and arrange many of his pieces with junior high school and high school level musicians in mind. During his time at Harvard, he performed in the band, orchestra, and the glee club. He also arranged some pieces for the marching band his senior year.
After finishing at Harvard, Anderson was rather busy; he studied Scandinavian languages, served as a church organist and choir director, tutored students at Radcliffe College, and worked in Boston as an instrumentalist and conductor. By 1935, he had dedicated himself to music, working as an arranger, composer, and conductor. He also fell into an appointment with the Boston Pops; the manager of the Boston Symphony Orchestra was a fellow Harvard graduate who had heard the marching band perform Anderson's arrangements, and he requested a copy of some of those arrangements for the Pops' Harvard Night concert. After Arthur Fiedler heard Anderson's arrangements, he commissioned a piece for the string section of the Pops (Jazz Pizzicato, 1938). This eventually gave way to Anderson's permanent position as arranger and orchestrator for the Pops Orchestra.
During World War II, Anderson's knowledge of Scandinavian languages led him to be stationed in Iceland; by the end of the war, he had been named the Chief of the Scandinavian Desk of the Military Intelligence Service. In 1945, Anderson came up with the concept for The Syncopated Clock while serving at the Pentagon. This proved to be an enormously popular piece, as it served as the theme to CBS' evening movie programming, The Late Show.
After he left the military, Anderson put out a great deal of music, including Fiddle Faddle, Serenata, Belle of the Ball, Blue Tango, and what is probably his best known piece today, Sleigh Ride, which has become a Christmas standard; lyrics for many of these pieces came from Mitchell Parish, who also wrote the lyrics to Star Dust. Anderson also composed the 1958 musical Goldilocks, which starred Elaine Stritch and Don Ameche.
Works list, courtesy http://www.leroy-anderson.com/