American Band College Dedicates New Facility to Ashland – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Scott McKee, Founder and Executive Director of American Band College, assists Gladys Wright Tuesday during the grand opening of the new American Band College Al and Gladys Wright Center in Ashland. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

An Indiana woman and her husband will long be associated with the town of Ashland through their service and generosity to the American Band College.

A ceremony Tuesday morning dedicated the new Al and Gladys Wright Center of American Band College in a former church building at 748 Siskiyou Blvd., at the corner of Siskiyou and Liberty Street.

During the ceremony, 97-year-old Gladys Wright and about 175 people involved with this year’s ABC summer program formed a six-line shovel brigade. Everyone took turns digging a shovel full of dirt where a new access road will be built, leading around the building to a loading dock area.

The building, originally the Hillside Church, is believed to have been built in the 1950s. It is currently undergoing extensive renovations which are expected to be completed before the end of the year. It will serve as a research center and storage location for ABC’s massive collection of more than 50,000 band music tracks.

The 6,000 square foot building was purchased in part with proceeds from the sale of a house in Lebanon, donated to ABC by Gladys Wright.

The Oregon native attended Wasco High School. She tells the story of how her high school band played in band contests every year, but was beaten by the Arlington band, which had a very good trumpeter named Doc Severinsen.

Gladys Wright taught at schools in Elmira just outside Eugene after graduating from the University of Oregon. She met her future husband, Al Wright, at the then famous Gunnison Music Camp in Colorado.

Since 1953, Gladys Wright has lived in West Lafayette, Indiana, where she taught music at area high schools. Her husband, who died two years ago at the age of 104, was a renowned clinician and group director at Purdue University for many years.

Al and Gladys Wright were both clinicians at the very first American Band College in 1989. They returned as clinicians in 2005, 2008 and 2011.

Together they created several important band organizations: the John Philip Sousa Foundation, the National Band Association, the McDonald’s Band, and Women Band Directors International.

“They are two of the most important figures in our company,” said Max McKee, founder and chief executive of ABC. “The center is named after them to honor their legacy.”

Gladys Wright conducted Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” to close out ABC’s June 26 concert at the Craterian Theatre. ABC’s second concert will be July 4 at 7:30 a.m. at Ashland High School’s football stadium.

From 2016 through May of this year, ABC stored its collection of music and other records in library space inside Lincoln School at Ashland. Prior to that, the records were held at Southern Oregon University, where McKee served as a professor of music for 30 years.

The collection has grown considerably over the years, with much of it donated by publishers around the world. Music is used in sight-reading clinics, and students perform the pieces as part of their classes in the master’s program.

The new facility will ease ABC’s growing pains.

“We’ll be using our high-density storage system in the new center,” Max McKee said, “which will leave room for prep work to put together music files for the big bands we have in Ashland every summer and Seattle every November for the West International Music Clinic.

The new center will be reserved for storage and administrative work, without rehearsal spaces. Summer clinics and rehearsals are held at Ashland High School.

“We use the school’s Mountain Avenue Theater for four lectures each day of our summer program,” McKee said.

ABC also uses the theater and music room for rehearsals, rents the school’s kitchen facilities to cook lunches for nearly 200 people a day, and conducts entrance exams and final written exams at other school rooms.

For more information on ABC, visit bandworld.org/abc/.

Contact Ashland writer Jim Flint at [email protected]

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