Oral History -

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Merle Johnson was a past president of the famous EK Blessing Company in Elkhart, Indiana. Emil Karl Blessing opened a small brasswind valve company in 1906 and soon expanded his products to include cornets and trumpets. Over the years the company grew to include Mr. Blessing’s sons, who played a large role in attracting top performers of the big bands to play their instruments. Mr. Blessing’s daughter, Virginia, was married in 1955 to Merle who purchased the company in 1964, becoming owner and president.

Gary Ingle is the CEO of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA). As a music educator, Gary sought to bring teachers together in ways that could benefit the profession as well as the school programs they were supporting.

Jack Hotop was among the innovative engineers at KORG during the early synthesizer craze, creating the first MIDI workstation, the KORG M1. During his long career at KORG, Jack has teamed with fellow engineer Jerry Kovarsky who later became product manager. Together they lead the team that created the KORG Oasys and more recently introduced the M3.

Paul Hagen grew up in England playing a number of musical instruments including the bassoon, piano and flute. He was part of the National Youth Band and, although he studied engineering in college, felt that he wanted to be involved with the music products industry. When he had the opportunity to purchase a wholesale company he was working for, Paul contacted his friend Lee Worsley and the two discussed creating a new company. They formed Active Music Distribution in 1999 with a strong focus on the percussion market.

Gary Grimes played a very vital role in the early part of his career, working in the music education department at Wurlitzer. Gary wrote many of the training programs for Wurlitzer as well as music education materials that were provided to customers. He served as Vice President of Marketing with Wurlitzer, Executive Vice President for the Baldwin Piano Company, President of Lowrey Organs and President of the National Piano Manufacturers Association. Gary enjoyed the piano industry so much that he set off to establish his own retail store.

Gene Gray was a sales rep for the mighty Wurlitzer Company from 1965 until 1988. During his NAMM interview, Gene spoke first hand of the great family feelings many had while working for the DeKalb,IL, based manufacturer. Gene played in his high school marching band and had music a part of his life in college where he studied economics and began working in sales.

Gunter Graulich is the founder of the German music publisher, Carus. The company was established in 1972 with the mission to publish sacred choral music. Since it’s founding, the focus of Carus has been to publish both little known choral works from all eras in critical editions and reliable editions of older works, which do not conform to the standards of modern editorial practice. With Mr.

Betty Gore, along with her husband, established Pender’s Music Company in Texas. The retail store is only one part of the company, as her husband Harold sought to find and publish every march and song by John Phillip Sousa. Betty played a key role in the large endeavor by researching the songs and copyrights. She also worked alongside Harold as the store grew over the years.

Elmer Gibson has served the music products industry for over 38 years as the insurance rep for the NAMM membership. Elmer has worked closely with the NAMM management and members to provide useful insurance that has in fact paid a dividend for 37 out of the 38 years of the program.

Larry Garris is the founder of Corner Music in Nashville, Tennessee. Located in the heart of the country music region, Corner Music has become the place to purchase the latest gear and to listen to some great music. Over the years, Larry has developed long-lasting relationships with many of the local recording studios and their engineers. If there is a last minute need, Corner Music is the place to go.