UPDATE: Georgia Southern University Names Fred and Dinah Gretsch School of Music
On February 9, the Board of Regents of the University System approved the naming of Georgia Southern University’s School of Music, the Fred and Dinah Gretsch School of Music, to honor the legendary duo and manufacturer. The distinction comes on the heels of the prolific drum and guitar maker’s pledge for substantial funding and the donation of historic drums, guitars, and company archives to the university.
Update: Classes began this month at the Fred and Dinah Gretsch School of Music at Georgia Southern University. The two-campus expansion includes a business side of the industry focus at the Savannah-Armstrong campus and a home for composing and music performance at the Statesboro campus.
In 1883, inside a small Brooklyn workshop, Friedrich Gretsch began handcrafting banjos, drums, and tambourines perhaps not realizing that he was starting a legacy that would last well over a century and counting. Gretsch continued crafting instruments for the next 12 years before he passed away, leaving the company to his 15-year-old son, Fred Gretsch Sr. Fred expanded the business and innovated products like creating the world’s first “warp-free” drum hoop that was only possible through his groundbreaking multi-ply drum lamination process. By 1920, the Gretsch Company was recognized as the largest musical instrument manufacturer in the U.S., and just six short years later, the company released its first branded guitar, breaking into yet another sector of the industry. Fred continued to lead the company for 50 years before his retirement, naming Fred Gretsch Jr. president.
The onset of World War Two resulted in Fred Jr. stepping down as president to serve in the Navy, leaving his brother Bill in charge of operations. Bill would continue to run Gretsch until his death in 1948, when Fred resumed his position as the company’s president. Shortly after starting a defining partnership between Gretsch and country star Chet Atkins in 1954, the Chet Atkins Country Gentleman guitar was released in 1957 at The NAMM Show. Fred decided in 1967 to sell the company to the Baldwin Piano Company, ending 84 years of family ownership. The absence of the Gretsch family from the brand was short-lived as Dinah Gretsch was hired in 1979 and brought the company back to family ownership by 1984 when it was purchased by Fred W. Gretsch, Friedrich’s great-grandson. Fred W. Gretsch then moved the company to Ridgeland, South Carolina, the following year. Gretsch has continued to be a leader in the industry and its communities launching multiple initiatives to bring music to the world.
Alongside the school's dedication is the donation of Gretsch company archives and instruments, a collection that is valued to be in the millions. The artifacts paint a vivid picture of music history from “American jazz to English-born rock to popular modern worship bands in Australia” and will be displayed in the Fred and Dinah Gretsch School of Music performance stage at the Atlantic Building in downtown Savannah. The building’s exhibit space will house Gretsch instruments and storyboards filled with the company’s history.
On the donation, Georgia Southern University President Kyle Marrero, said, “This collaboration with the Gretsch family, the Gretsch Company, and its commitment to excellence exemplifies our goal to elevate and further enhance extraordinary programs, like our music program at Georgia Southern.” Steven Harper, Chair of the university’s music department, echoed the sentiment saying, “Fred and Dinah Gretsch are not only major figures in the music industry, but they are also major figures in the advocacy for universal music education.”
The Gretsch family is highly involved in a wide variety of music advocacy efforts, yet the opportunity to partner with Georgia Southern is unique to the company. “We are so very enthusiastic about this partnership,” said Fred Gretsch. “Our vision is that Georgia Southern will be recognized as the very best music school in the Southeast. We are impressed with the university’s dedication to transforming lives and communities and with their eagerness and ability to appropriately catalog our collection. This collaboration allows us to appropriately honor our company’s influence with many of the icons that are dear to us who have shaped the music industry.”
For more information from the Gretsch Company, visit https://www.gretsch.com/. To learn more about the Fred and Dinah Gretsch School of Music at Georgia Southern University, please visit https://cah.georgiasouthern.edu/music/.