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Lynne Hanner, Director of Institutional Advancement
Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind will celebrate the opening of the new Eugene Landreth Music Center on Friday, September 25
Blind Boys of Alabama to perform at Celebration
TALLADEGA—There are distinctly sweet new sounds floating on the air at Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind’s School for the Blind campus as students experience the new Eugene Landreth Music Center. A grand opening celebration will be held on Friday, September 25 at 11:00 a.m. featuring a cameo performance by the famed Blind Boys of Alabama.
The five-time Grammy winning group began singing and performing together in 1939 when they were classmates at AIDB’s School for the Negro Blind. The Blind Boys of Alabama became known as “living legends of gospel music” and have attained the highest levels of achievement in a career that spans over 75 years and shows no signs of diminishing. Original founding member and AIDB alum Jimmy Carter still actively performs with the group.
“This new facility is an investment in ASB’s future,” said AIDB President Dr. John Mascia. “It is the result of visionary leadership and a partnership of state and private resources. We began with a $1 million one-time appropriation from the Alabama Legislature and matched it with private gifts and support from the AIDB Foundation to complete the $2 million project.”
Old and inadequate music facilities were located in a 1928 converted gymnasium on the campus. “That was a far cry from the best – and our students deserved our best,” said Dr. Mascia. “The Landreth Music Center is an investment in our students who are blind or low vision to develop their musical abilities and talents, bolster their self esteem and acquire technical skills that could lead to career opportunities,” said Mascia, noting that a new professional recording studio will be an integral part of the new center. The recording studio will serve as a valuable instructional tool and provide a career training ground for students in the audio and recording industry. The recording studio is being funded through gifts from AT&T and from the Joseph Bonds Priester Estate in memory of Bessie Priester, an ASB graduate and music teacher for 40 years.
Private sector donors to the project include the AIDB Foundation; AT&T; Jim and Allison Gorrie; Joe Lombino; Barganier, Davis, Sims Architects; the Joseph Bonds Priester Estate and the John Mascia Family.
Senator Del Marsh will make a special presentation at the event which will also feature performances by students in the music program.
Music has been an integral part of the educational program at ASB since the first students enrolled at the school in 1867. The history of ASB talks much of investments made in the music program with the purchase of new pianos and instruments and notes the many people who played key roles in its development.
In 1934 ASB graduate Eugene Landreth organized the school’s first band using second hand instruments. In the 1940s more resources became available for new uniforms and instruments and the Band traveled to New York to perform at the Lions International Convention in Madison Square Gardens before a crowd of 28,000. Mr. Landreth led the band for 45 years until his retirement in 1979. As a student, music teacher and band director, he was associated with AIDB for 65 years.
“The music we play is equivalent to any sighted band,” Mr. Landreth once proudly said of his band. “The difference is that we memorize our music. We don’t play by ear as many people think.”
The building was designed by Barganier, Davis, Sims Architects and built by George Hicks Construction Company. It features designated space for band, chorus and piano instruction, a music library, private practice rooms, a music lab equipped with the latest technology and of course, the recording studio.
“Everything about the Eugene Landreth Music Center is new, except the name,” said Dr. Mascia. “Mr. Landreth made such a difference in the life of ASB for over 65 years. It is important that we carry his legacy and his example forward.”
The Alabama School for the Blind is a component of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind. AIDB was established in 1858 and is the world’s most comprehensive education and service program for individuals of all ages who are deaf, blind, deafblind or multidisabled. Major programs include five campuses in Talladega and eight regional centers located in Birmingham, Dothan, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, Talladega, Tuscaloosa and Tuscumbia.