New Scholarship at the University of West Georgia Commemorates Georgia Music Hall of Fame’s Tenth Anniversary

The University of West Georgia announced today a gift of $120,000 by Fred and Dinah Gretsch and The Georgia Music Hall of Fame Foundation to create the Joseph Johnson Scholarship in commemoration of the Hall of Fame’s tenth anniversary. The scholarship, established in perpetuity and named for the museum’s longest-serving employee, will benefit a deserving University of West Georgia graduate student in the Public History or Museum Studies program. The recipient of the scholarship, which begins in Fall 2007, will work 15 hours per week during each semester on a project that documents the musical heritage of Georgia, working collaboratively with the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and the Center for Public History’s Regional Music Project at the University of West Georgia.

“The Joseph R. Johnson Scholarship will provide opportunities for West Georgia graduate students to research and document the musical heritage of the state,” said Dr. Thomas Hynes, Acting President of University of West Georgia. “We are deeply grateful to Fred and Dinah Gretsch for their support, and we look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with them, with the Gretsch Company, and with the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.”

Fred Gretsch, fourth-generation owner of The Gretsch Company, the legendary and internationally-recognized guitar and drum manufacturer headquartered in Savannah, Georgia, said, “As curator of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, Joseph’s driving force, energy, and enthusiasm for all things musical are truly an inspiration to anyone he meets. What a terrific ambassador for Georgia and for music. If we could bottle his spirit and transfer it to each recipient of the Joseph Johnson Scholarship, we’d have a winner every time.”

The Center for Public History at the University of West Georgia began the Regional Music Project in 2001 with a Georgia Folklife Grant to document early radio recordings in Carroll County. The first CD released by the Center, Everybody’s Tuned to the Radio, received a Certificate of Commendation by the American Association of State and Local History.

This CD was researched and compiled by graduate student Mick Buck, who is now Curator of Collections at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. Buck initiated the

Center’s relationship with the Georgia Music Hall of Fame by interning with Joseph Johnson to learn more about the nuts and bolts of how to archive historical recordings. “My fondest memories of my internship at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame are of working with Joseph Johnson. Through his dedication to preserving Georgia music history and his contagious passion for the subject, Joseph provided me with a role model that continues to inspire me in my professional life.”

Over the past five years, the Center has released two additional CDs documenting regional music traditions in the Georgia piedmont, featuring both archival and new recordings. I Hear a Sweet Voice Calling showcases Alton Stitcher, an old-time country singer and song-writer who was inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. More recently, the Center has been documenting sacred and gospel traditions in the Georgia piedmont and has produced one volume of Set Your Fields on Fire, with a second volume to be released in March 2007.

“The Joseph Johnson Scholarship will provide tremendous support to our research into Georgia’s music traditions,” said Dr. Ann McCleary, Director of the Center for Public History. “Not only does it recognize the quality of work that we have accomplished, but it will ensure the continued vitality of our Regional Music Project for years to come and build a valuable collaboration between our institution and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Together, we will help preserve Georgia’s music heritage for future generations to study and to enjoy while providing valuable educational opportunities for graduate students interested in public history and museum studies.”

Joseph Johnson has served as Curator of Music and Popular Culture at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame since 1994. In the past 12 years, he has been responsible for building the expansive collection of sound and video recordings, photographs, printed music, instruments, performance outfits, memorabilia and documentation of the history of Georgia music and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame inductees.

Georgia Music Hall of Fame Executive Director Lisa Love said, “This partnership with the University of West Georgia will greatly enhance the Georgia Music Hall of Fame’s education and research initiatives and provide invaluable hands-on training for graduate students. I am grateful for the vision that Fred and Dinah Gretsch and the board members of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Foundation have shown in endowing this scholarship in recognition of the museum’s tenth anniversary.”

The Georgia Music Hall of Fame, located at 200 Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd., in downtown Macon, is a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. For more information, contact Katie Roberts at (478) 751-3334 or kroberts@georgia.org. For more information concerning the scholarship, contact the UWG Office of Development and Alumni Relations at 678-839-6582.

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