“We’ve Met Another Dream.” That Great Gretsch Sound! Gretsch Museum Dedicated in Savannah
“Let’s change the world through music.”
“How about a vision for a more musical world?”
“Let’s promote music education as a right for all children.”
These were just three of the bold visions and challenges shared by Fred and Dinah Gretsch at the Grand Opening of the That Great Gretsch Sound! Gretsch Museum in Savannah, Georgia on November 18, 2021. The beautiful, free-to-the-public museum was developed through a special partnership between the Fred and Dinah Gretsch School of Music at Georgia Southern University and the Kessler Collection.
The three-day, family-friendly celebration kicked off with a special outdoor ceremony with an audience full of family, friends, Georgia Southern, and local officials, music industry partners, and even a special Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist who’s had a Gretsch guitar slung over his shoulder a time or two.
The Georgia Southern University’s Southern Pride Marching Band along with the Georgia Southern Cheerleaders and dancers kicked off the ceremony with a march down the River Walk to MLK Park, just outside of the Gretsch Museum’s location at the JW Marriott’s Atlantic Building on 400 W. River Street. Even “Freedom,” Georgia Southern’s impressive live Eagle mascot, made an appearance.
Georgia Southern’s President, Kyle Marreo, opened the ceremony by thanking Fred and Dinah for believing in Georgia Southern’s shared vision of making Savannah the “Music City of the South,” and making Georgia Southern the best music program in the country. Marreo concluded by saying, “This project is a great example of Georgia Southern’s regional public impact mission and just one example of the opportunities afforded to us by having the Gretsch name associated with Georgia Southern and the city of Savannah.”
Carl Reiber, Georgia Southern’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, also spoke, sharing how proud he was that the Gretsch Company’s reputation for innovation, forward thinking, and the highest in quality will now become synonymous with Georgia Southern University. “Thanks to the Gretsch family, Georgia Southern is now poised to expand an already strong music program into a school of national and international prominence,” Reiber said. “That is a promise we made to the Gretsches. And that is something the Gretsch family will hold us to.”
Other speakers on the program included Aaron Phillips, Georgia Southern’s project curator and installer (who also plays the guitar and drums), Christian Sottile, the design architect of the Gretsch Museum and Plant Riverside District, and hotelier and Savannah native, Richard Kessler, who owns the Plant Riverside District.
Closing remarks were made by Fred and Dinah Gretsch. After being introduced to a standing ovation, Dinah spoke first, looked at her husband and business partner and said, “So, Babe, we’ve met another dream.” She continued by saying, “This was a dream of ours, always, to partner with a great institution to house all of our collection and to be able to display what we have. Fred and I have had many, many dreams through this business and so this was very special.”
Dinah concluded by saying, “I’ve worked in the music business for 42 years and Fred’s been in it for 56, so we have 98 years together and we get to share it with the world. It’s such an honor to partner with Georgia Southern, a great institution. Fred and I really thank you for making all of this happen.”
Dinah then turned the microphone over to husband Fred, who reminded the audience of the importance of family and relationships. Three of the Gretsch’s six children, Fred W. Gretsch Jr., Heather Roller, and Lena Thomas were able to attend, along with several generations of family members from New York and Florida, including Scot Dimig, who works for Epic Records at Sony Music Entertainment.
Fred also thanked many music industry friends and partners for coming, including Gretsch Drums Brand and Artists Relations Manager, Andrew Shreve, Sammy Ash of Sam Ash Music, and NAMM President, Joe Lamond, who had flown in from California.
Music royalty was also recognized in the audience as the daughter of Otis Redding, Karla Redding-Andrews and her husband Tim attended, as well as Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top fame. Fred and Dinah are longtime friends of Gibbons’ sister, Pam, and Billy had invited the Gretsches to his show the night before at the Johnny Mercer Theatre in Savannah.
“Billy, thanks for the great tickets to your show last night,” Fred shared with a smile. “You’re a great rock ‘n’ roller. And we’re going to make Georgia Southern a rock ‘n’ roll music school. So, Billy, you’re welcome back any time.”
Fred shared that family members from both the Gretsch and Redding families had graduated from Georgia Southern and welcomed a worldwide audience who were catching a livestream of the event on USG, the University System of Georgia. “Almost 30 colleges and universities are under the USG banner and Georgia Southern is one of the greatest members of the system in Georgia,” stated Fred. “The Georgia Southern team has done a fine job with this museum and putting a lot of deep information on their website, and we have a lot more to do.”
Before the ceremony transitioned over to the museum for the official ribbon cutting, Fred reminded the audience of his and Dinah’s vision for music education. “Imagine a world in which every child has a deep desire to learn music and a recognized right to be taught,” shared Fred.” And in which every adult is a passionate champion and defender of that right.”
Fred smiled and closed the historic day and ceremony by wishing the audience, “Be well, be safe, be blessed, all, and be musical!”
Images from That Great Gretsch Sound! Gretsch Museum
Visit the Museum website and make sure stop into the museum when in Savannah!