Bill and Gloria Gaither to be honored at Chamber gala
By Dirk Webb
Dove Awards, Grammy Awards, Halls of Fame, Sagamore of the Wabash, Kentucky Colonel, Honorary Doctorates, Lifetime Achievement Awards, Albums of the Year, Songwriter of the Year…the list beginning in 1968 rolls to the present in a stream that is nearly beyond comprehension.
Yet Bill and Gloria Gaither, arguably Madison County’s leading citizens, whether referred to singly, as a couple or as a conglomerate, are “one of us.”
Never mind, for a moment, that they’ve traveled the world for the past 50 years. Forget, just for now, that their songs have been covered by everyone from Elvis Presley to the choir director at your church. Bill and Gloria are “one of us.”
Established in 1965, Gaither Music spans the globe in circles far beyond Gospel Music. Encompassing recording studios, television production, copyright management, and an animation company, they are the definition of the Entrepreneurial Spirit in a small town setting.
Their songs and message of hope transcend musical genres and the reach of their business endeavors extend from a local retail shop and studio complex in Alexandria, Indiana to touching an international audience with their “Gaither Homecoming” series.
But, if you pay close attention, you might see Bill wandering the Madison County Fairgrounds during a warm summer evening nibbling on a snack. You may encounter Gloria striding down the halls of Anderson University after teaching her latest class. They are “one of us.”
Celebrating 50 years of creativity and excellence with Bill and Gloria Gaither is like, well, celebrating with friends just up the road. They didn’t move to New York, Los Angeles or Nashville. They choose to be “one of us.”
And we love them for it.
Why here in Madison County? “This county is where our roots are. We have history here, and the friends we have here in Madison County are the ones who knew us and supported us before anyone ever knew our names. So it is important for us to keep our business here and to keep investing in this community that has been so good to us.”
Why is your music and business still so relevant after 50 years? “For us, the message of hope we sing about doesn’t change. Styles change, but hope is timeless. The methods by which we create have certainly changed; we are more efficient and our reach has broadened with the help of technology, but for us, the thing that people are drawn to is the core truths that never change”
What are your goals for 2015? “After more than 50 years of getting to do what we love for a living, the goal is to keep doing what we’re doing. We plan to keep making great music that is relevant in our world, and we have a great team that is helping us make wise, informed decisions so we can continue to do what we do at the highest possible level in 2015 and beyond.”
Who do you consider the most courageous person in history and why? “There are so many individuals throughout history that I admire for their remarkable courage. But today, I’ll choose Nelson Mandela. I have stood in the prison in Robben Island, where he was held for 27 years for political reasons. And it was overwhelming to think that he walked out of there with all kinds of reasons to get even, but he didn’t. He chose to pursue reconciliation. That choice took rare courage.”
If you were to take that person on a tour of your business, what one thing would you want them to see? “If he toured our businesses, I hope he would see that we hold to his conviction that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity. I also hope he would be pleased at our commitment to our customers and to our community as a whole.
Over the past 50 years, I’ve told many new employees about the night when our music business was just starting and I was still teaching school as a day job. I got a call at 11:30 PM, after I had already gone to bed, and someone needed 300 photo copies of “He Touched Me” by the next night. I got out of bed, got dressed, went down to the basement and made those copies; then I drove to the Anderson bus station in subzero temperatures and put those copies on a bus so they could be delivered by the following night. We try to keep the same motto that permeated our business when we first started: go the extra mile for your customers’ needs, even if it means getting up in the middle of a cold, February night to get them what they need.”
What was the defining moment when you knew your business was making a difference? “To be honest there wasn’t one defining moment. There were several. In our early days, those moments happened when we received letters in the mail from people saying, “Thank you for the song… “It was a powerful thing to hear that our music made a difference to someone who was going through a divorce, mourning the loss of a child, facing a life-threatening illness or in the midst of other difficult circumstances. Still, those stories are the reason we value every package that is sent from our company each day. Each package represents a life, and the music inside each shipment could help bring someone hope and encouragement.”