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Power chords: The partnership between academics and entertainment

The 20-year collaboration between Gretsch Guitars and Fender isn’t the only major affiliation Fred and Dinah Gretsch have to celebrate. In 2021, the Gretsches gave their support and name to the School of Music at Georgia Southern University.

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“The Fred and Dinah Gretsch School of Music has been boosted to a higher level thanks to the generosity of this wonderful family,” said Georgia Southern Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Carl Reiber. “But their gifts will impact Georgia Southern and the local community in a variety of ways, which is what today’s visit is about.”

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On August 17, the Gretsches got a behind-the-scenes tour of how their partnership with Georgia Southern has impacted both the local community and the student body. The tour coincided with the 20th anniversary of a partnership between the Gretsch Company and Fender Musical Instruments Corp., under which Fender has been developing, producing, marketing and distributing Gretsch guitars worldwide.

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“Since the announcement and naming of the Fred and Dinah Gretsch School of Music, we have seen a measurable impact in the elevation of the reach, reputation and capabilities of our music program, and the university,” said Georgia Southern President Dr. Kyle Marrero. “We are grateful for this partnership and excited about our future plans and opportunities to come.”      

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Gretsch family members in attendance included Fred and Dinah Gretsch of the 4th generation and Logan Thomas, a 6th generation family member who served as the family photographer for the day.

“It was wonderful to see firsthand work completed and in process by multiple Departments within the University in furtherance of the Gretsch family goal to enrich lives through participation in music,” remarked Fred Gretsch.

While on campus last week, the Gretsches saw how their support paved the way for Georgia Southern to offer new courses and degrees, such as the Bachelor of Arts in Music with a Concentration in Music Industry. They also donated Gretsch instruments for classrooms.

Reaching beyond the Gretsch School of Music, their gift included artifacts from their personal collection of Gretsch memorabilia. This presented a rare opportunity for graduate students to not only interact with the collection, and also gain valuable experience for creating a museum exhibit through the Graduate Seminar in Public History, which takes place every spring semester.

Throughout the seminar, students explore the latest research, theories, and best practices in the field of Public History through readings, discussions, and written assignments, while at the same time working together to design an original exhibit at the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau.

What came from this particular course is “Manufacturing Music: 140 Years of Gretsch Legacy” which has been on display since May at the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau located in downtown Statesboro.

“It was really exciting to be able to work with the Gretsch collection and to be able to create an exhibit,” said Sadie Ingram, one of the graduate students who put together the exhibit. “This experience taught me valuable skills in researching, designing, and creating a museum exhibit, which is what I want to do when I graduate.”

The seven graduate students were led by Aaron Phillips, Georgia Southern’s project curator for the Fred and Dinah Gretsch Artifacts Collection, and Dr. Brent Tharp, director of the Georgia Southern University Museum.

The Gretsch family also toured the University Records Center to see where the musical artifacts and corporate and family documents are being preserved for use by scholars and researchers from around the world. The Records Center is a state-of-the-art facility within the Central Warehouse Building that provides preservation and safeguard measures for the collections. University Libraries and Museum faculty and staff are working together to catalog, preserve, and make accessible these unique and important materials. Processing the vast Gretsch collections is an effort being undertaken by graduate students alongside experienced faculty and staff.

“The Gretsch family’s generous donation has helped our programs offer hands-on experience when it comes to processing, researching, and making the collections accessible worldwide,” said Dean of Libraries Dr. Lisa Carmichael. “Working directly with experienced special collection librarians and project archivists sets our students apart from others who may not have these opportunities at their universities, and better prepares our student assistants for advancement when they graduate and begin their careers.”

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