Willson learned to play the flute in Mason City, Iowa. Here he is with the Mason City Band (front row, second from the left) in front of the Cerro Gordo County Courthouse in 1919. Willson maintained a friendly relationship with Mason City throughout his life.
After its Broadway run, The Music Man was performed around the world, including in China, Poland, Iran, and Czechoslovakia. In 1972, Willson traveled to Poland to see the production of the Warsaw Operetta, a gesture hailed as significant for musical and cultural exchange during the Cold War. Here he is being welcomed at the airport by Polish director Stanislawa Stanislawska.