Morton Gould (1913-1996) was an American conductor, composer, and pianist.  He was recognized as a child prodigy very early in his life, and as a result he published his first composition before his seventh birthday.  His talents led him to become the staff pianist for Radio City Music Hall when it opened in 1932.  He went on to compose movie soundtracks, Broadway musicals, and instrumental pieces for orchestra and band while also cultivating an international career as a conductor.  Among the honors he received were the 1995 Pulitzer Prize, the 1994 Kennedy Center Honor, a 1983 Gold Baton Award, and a 1966 Grammy Award.  By the time of his death in 1996 he was widely revered as an icon of American classical music.

There are several short biographies of Gould on the Internet.  Each one is more glowing than the next:

Wikipedia – concise biography and list of works.

G. Schirmer – Gould’s publisher gives a much more eloquent account of the composer’s life (which wikipedia seems to have stolen and mangled).

Kennedy Center – Heaps yet more praise on the composer.

There is even an entire book dedicated to the biography of Morton Gould, by Peter W. Goodman.  Like the piece we are playing, it is called American Salute.

Google books preview of the book here.

Review of said book here.

American Salute the piece is based on the patriotic tune “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again”.  Written in 1943, one can only guess that it was meant as a morale booster during the uncertainty of World War II.

Here is a sampling of three program notes on American Salute: the first is short and straightforward; the second is a bit more extensive; and the third is colorful, comes from a blog, and includes a recording of the orchestral version.

Now onto a video of a performance by the University of Alabama Honor Band 2010.  If they can do it, so can we!

Finally, some info on the source tune, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again”.  You may, of course, recognize the tune as “The Ants Go Marching”.  Well “Johnny” came first, thanks to composer and bandleader Patrick Gilmore.  More info, including the lyrics, can be found here on wikipedia.