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Alvin G. Layton Silent Film Music Collection

Identifier: CoU-AMRC-57

Scope and Contents

Silent film music collected by Alvin Layton (1899-1987), composer, violinist, conductor of the Curran Theater Orchestra


  • Creation: 1899-1987



Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the American Music Research Center.

Biography of Alvin G. Layton

Born to a mine millwright in 1899, Alvin Layton spent most of his childhood in Denver, Colorado. He began playing violin at a young age, participating in, and occasionally wining, amateur vaudeville nights in San Francisco and Denver. At the age 15 he began his first professional music career, accompanying silent movies at the Curran Theater, Boulder, Colorado, and playing in a group at the Boulderado Hotel.

Around the age of 18, he was already conducting, coordinating performances of, and selecting music for the Curran Theater Orchestra; this responsibility led to his collection of silent film music. In the early to mid twenties he also performed for traveling vaudeville chains in Pueblo, Fort Collins, and Denver, Colorado, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

In the late twenties Layton’s musical career was nearly put on hiatus due to the advent of sound in movies. He continued to play in Laramie, Wyoming, however, as an accompanist for one of the last vaudeville theatres until 1932. Also during this time he taught private lessons to supplement his income. His father became ill in 1934, and Layton moved to Henderson, Colorado, to be near his family. While in Henderson, Layton created a music program in the rural school district, organized adult community orchestras, and started a dance orchestra that played at grange halls.

In November 1942 Layton was drafted by the Air Force to serve in World War II. Due to his friendship with Glenn Miller, which had flourished during his Boulder performance days while Miller was a University student, 1922-23, Miller designated Layton leader of the Post Orchestra. He was discharged in 1944. Upon his return to Colorado, he resumed teaching for the Public School System. Changes in the structure of the music program, however, persuaded him to retire in 1948, whereupon he did mission work in Alabama for a year, and then built a house in Brighton, Colorado, and became a dairy farmer. Around his second year of farming Layton hurt his left hand and was never able to play the violin to the level of proficiency that he demanded of himself. He spent the rest of his life farming (until his retirement in 1974) and traveling the world. Alvin Layton died in December, 1987.


150 linear feet

Language of Materials



Titles arranged alphabetically

The Alvin G. Layton silent film music collection, 1899-1987
An inventory of holdings at the American Music Research Center
Conversion Draft
Kitty Galvin, Cassandra Volpe, Eric Harbeson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written inEnglish.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States