Scroll down for a lead sheet for Mary Had a Little Lamb that includes the melody and chords, with versions of the song in seven different keys. There are also links to the song for piano, recorder, woodwind, brass, and string instruments.
Most people know the song Mary Had a Little Lamb, but few know that it is based on a true story. Mary Sawyer, who was born in 1806, lived on a farm with her family in Sterling, Massachusetts. When a newborn lamb was rejected by its mother, Mary decided to adopt it and nurse it to health. She did an excellent job, and the lamb survived. Not only did it survive, but it loved Mary, perhaps as if she were the lamb’s mother, and it followed her wherever Mary went, including school. The original poem Mary Had a Little Lamb was written by a fellow student named John Roulstone, who saw the lamb follow Mary, including the time she snuck it into school.
The history of the poem is not without controversy, though. A version of the poem with a few extra stanzas was later published in 1830 by Sarah Hale in a book called Poems for Our Children. Hale claimed that she had written the poem herself. The towns of Newport, New Hampshire (Hale’s hometown) and Sterling, Massachusetts argued about the creation of the poem for decades, and in the 1920s Henry Ford got involved in the matter, took Mary Sawyer’s side, bought the schoolhouse where the event took place, moved it to Sudbury, Massachusetts, and published a book about Mary and her lamb. Many have concluded that the original poem was written by Roulstone, and that Hale added to it later on. For more information about the poem and its history, see the New England Historical Society and the Modern Farmer websites.
The music to Mary Had a Little Lamb was written by the American composer Lowell Mason in the 1830s. Mason also composed over one thousand hymns, and arranged a melody by Handel to create the Christmas song Joy to the World. Mason is considered to be the father of music education in America, having cofounded a music school for children in Boston and successfully lobbying for public schools to include the study of music in their curriculum.
Mary Had a Little Lamb for flute
Mary Had a Little Lamb for oboe
Mary Had a Little Lamb for clarinet
Mary Had a Little Lamb for bassoon
Mary Had a Little Lamb for alto saxophone
Mary Had a Little Lamb for tenor saxophone
Mary Had a Little Lamb for trumpet
Mary Had a Little Lamb for French horn
Mary Had a Little Lamb for trombone
Mary Had a Little Lamb for tuba