Announcement: Aperio, MLA Release New Publication, The Public Domain Song Anthology

Aperio, the University of Virginia’s open access press, and the Music Library Association are pleased to announce a joint publication

Aperio, the University of Virginia’s open access press, and the Music Library Association are pleased to announce a joint publication: The Public Domain Song Anthology by David Berger and Chuck Israels. This collection of 348 songs with modern and traditional harmonization is available for all to use and is free of copyright restrictions. The original songs and the anthology itself are in the public domain, which allows the material to be studied, performed, adapted, and shared without constraint.

By making this anthology open access we foresee broad use of the resource both inside and outside of educational settings. The PDSA gives teachers and students free and easy access to hundreds of popular, folk, and jazz songs in a single publication. The anthology also solves a problem for performers by sharing songs that can be played confidently without violating copyright. Contributions by Berger and Israels have been gifted to the public domain as well, which will help to both preserve and give new life to the rich legacy of these songs—many of which are at risk of being forgotten or overlooked.

Bob Schwartz, a lawyer who also leads his own quartet, recognized the potential for this publication to support musicians and live music after noticing an uptick in copyright enforcement and royalty collections in DC area venues. Determined to play more songs in the public domain himself, Schwartz said, “I realized I knew the perfect people in music and in law to create and authenticate an anthology of public domain popular music.” Schwartz enlisted Berger and Israels, nationally recognized jazz arrangers and band leaders, to curate and write the PDSA.

Some features and benefits of the PDSA include:

  • A unique and comprehensive collection of popular songs in the public domain
  • Easy access—the anthology is available for free as a digital download and the songs are available individually in PDF, XML, and Sibelius formats. The PDF version is optimized for printing.
  • Easy to use and share—as a public domain resource, users don’t need permission to copy, play, build upon, and share this work.
  • High-quality standards through curation by leading jazz experts and peer review from musicians and members of the Music Library Association
  • Enriched with introductions from Berger, Israels, Schwartz, and Peter Jaszi
  • Most songs are on a single page to allow for easier play.
  • A renewed legacy: users are encouraged to share their story on how they’re using the PDSA by tagging us on Twitter (@AperioUVA, @MusicLibAssoc) and sending us a note to

Download the PDSA for free at or directly at

This publication is a Music Library Association Open Edition. It was made possible by the tireless direction of MLA Open Access Editor Kathleen DeLaurenti, of The Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, with support from Dave Ghamandi, Nina Schwartz, and Brandon Butler. A full list of libraries that offered support is included in the anthology. A print copy of the PDSA will be available at many of these supporting institutions.

About the Authors

Jazz composer, arranger, and conductor David Berger is recognized internationally as a leading authority on the music of Duke Ellington and the Swing Era. Conductor and arranger for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra from its inception in 1988 through 1994, Berger has transcribed over 750 full scores of classic recordings, including more than 500 works by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn in addition to hundreds of other classic jazz recordings.

Chuck Israels is a composer/arranger/bassist who has worked with Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock, J.J. Johnson, John Coltrane, and many others. He is best known for his work with the Bill Evans Trio from 1961 through 1966 and for his pioneering accomplishments in Jazz Repertory as Director of the National Jazz Ensemble from 1973 to 1981.

The Music Library Association is the professional association for music libraries and librarianship in the United States. Founded in 1931, it has an international membership of librarians, musicians, scholars, educators, and members of the book and music trades.

Aperio, a joint venture of the University of Virginia Library and the University of Virginia Press, draws upon the strengths of the University to increase open access to knowledge for a global audience in a variety of formats—journals, monographs, open educational resources, and more.