Marimba virtuoso Clair Omar Musser's influence on playing, teaching, composition, and manufacture has been pervasive. He performed his own arrangements of Chopin, Mendelssohn, Bach, Paganini, and others internationally. His solo compositions and transcriptions and his ensemble arrangements have enjoyed great popularity. Musser’s large marimba orchestras were acclaimed throughout the world. He was a teacher of renown, having headed the Northwestern University Marimba Department for ten years and sent many of his students to important positions in playing and teaching. His innovations in grip, mallets, and technique revolutionized marimba and vibraphone playing. An inventor and designer of instruments, he custom-made instruments for many famous performers. In 1948, Musser founded the company that bears his name.
Musser playing one of the first vibraphones made by the company he started in 1948.
Pictured above is the Marimba-Celeste designed by Musser. It combined a five-octave xylophone-marimba with a two-octave vibraharp. To facilitate playing, the vibe bars were strung in a single row with black oxodized sharp/flat bars. The lower register had pickups that were run into an amplification system connected to the two horns in the front.
Musser with BeBe Shapp, Miss America 1948.