Morton Manus, President of Alfred Music, passed away at his Los Angeles home on January 9 after a battle with cancer. He was a devoted husband to his wife Iris, a loving father and grandfather, an innovative music publisher, a celebrated author, an inspiring mentor to his staff, and a dedicated friend. Morty was a great man.
Born in 1926 in New York to Russian immigrants Samuel and Ann, Morty proudly enlisted in the Air Force during WWII, received a business degree from The City College of New York, and in the late 1940s, joined his father in the family business, Alfred Music.
When Morty started working at Alfred Music, there were four employees: Morty’s father Sam, a picker, a packer, and a bookkeeper. The important part of this story is Rose, the bookkeeper, who had a daughter named Iris. Morty and Iris fell in love, and as they say, the rest is history. They were married over 60 years.
Alfred Music began in New York’s Tin Pan Alley in 1922 and focused on mood music for silent films. Inspired by the need for quality music education products, Morty, a pianist, clarinetist, and guitarist, reinvented the company in the 1950s. He oversaw the development of an instructional series for accordion, followed by similar publications for guitar, piano, and recorder. Morty is the author and editor of hundreds of titles in Alfred Music’s catalog, including the enormously popular series, Alfred’s Basic Guitar Method and Alfred’s Basic Piano Library.
When Alfred Music outgrew its New York headquarters in the mid-1970s, Morty and Iris moved the company to Los Angeles. As time went by, they split their time between New York and Los Angeles, having many close friends on both coasts.
The company continued to grow under Morty’s leadership. Morty was joined in the business by his son Ron in 1988 and his son Steven in 1992. The family business expanded into the world’s leading instructional music publisher with offices in Australia, Germany, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. In 2005, Alfred Music purchased Warner Bros. Print Publications.
Morty received an honorary Doctorate of Music from VanderCook College of Music in July of 2008. Morty and Iris continued to be deeply committed to music education by supporting many music scholarships, competitions, and organizations.
Morty had many hobbies including being an avid sports fan, rooting for the Lakers and Dodgers. He was also a keen investor, skilled at stock charting and analysis. Among Morty’s other great accomplishments was climbing Mount Washington, New Hampshire on several occasions. He would often remark to his companions during the climb, “You will tell your grandchildren about this.”
Though terribly saddened by their loss, the Manus family members are now focusing on celebrating his life and the bright light of his legacy. Thanks to his amazing life’s work, generations of music makers will continue to experience the joy of making music. Morty and Iris recently summed up their love for music education and Alfred Music with these words: