The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center – She Rocks Awards: The Gretsch Company Executive Vice President and CFO, Dinah Gretsch
Dinah Gretsch has been a prominent figure in the musical instrument industry for more than thirty years. As Executive Vice President and CFO of the Savannah, GA-based Gretsch Company, she has helped to keep the Gretsch name remain one of the most well-known and respected guitar and drum manufacturers.
Mrs. Gretsch has been an avid supporter of many children’s programs throughout her career as well. She created Mrs. G’s Music Foundation, which funds music teachers, in-house artist programs, and provides musical instruments to rural schools while enriching children’s lives through participation in music.
The WiMN is delighted to present Dinah Gretsch with a She Rocks Award. Mrs. Gretsch will be honored along with other female industry leaders at an awards ceremony on Friday, January 24th, 2013, during the 2014 NAMM Show. Learn more here.
Find out more about The Gretsch Company here.
WiMN: 2013 was a busy year for Gretsch, as the company celebrated 130 years. Can you tell us about some of the most memorable moments?
DG: Many events took place during the year, with lots of bands, Gretsch history and our personal stories too. The celebrations started in April with the Musicmesse trade show in Germany, where we had two 130th celebration events in Hamburg and Cologne.
We also had a wonderful joint celebration in May where we recognized the 130th and mine and Fred’s wedding anniversary, which took place in the little town of Bloomingdale, GA. Friends and family from across the USA attended, and Joe Robinson and Richard Smith performed. This may have been my favorite event as everyone that attended I new personally.
I also attended events in Brooklyn, NY; Los Angeles, CA; Tokyo, Japan; Nagoya, Japan; Chicago, IL; Wisconsin; Nashville, TN; and Kemptville, Ontario. I really enjoyed our week of celebrating in Japan, and the event in Kemptville was different –– it was set in a theatre with an audience and we got to show history, videos and tell our stories. I really enjoyed that type of event.
WiMN: How does the company continue to thrive after all these years?
DG: It’s the brand image, our Gretsch Fans, the Gretsch Pages, our industry partners (FMIC), Joe Carducci, plus Fred’s continued participation and vision. I believe the family image also lends to the respect of the brand. I continue to attend events and meet with buyers of our products, and I think Fred and I are very down to earth people. We enjoy having relationships with everyone who promotes and purchases our products, and we create friendships.
Keeping the brand at the top in quality is a must. I cringe whenever I hear of a problem or complaint and really take it to heart. Customer service is always at the top of my list. We continue to expand the brands, such as adding the new root series in the last couple of years, and we continue to develop signature guitars and drums.
I will also add that we work very hard. We have developed our “Gretsch Family” and those included in that family are all of the above.
WiMN: What do you enjoy most about working in the music industry?
DG: Gosh…I enjoy the relationships that I have developed through the years. When I attend a show or an event, for me it is like a family reunion. I enjoy working with companies, artists and our vendors. It also allows me to do what I am good at. I enjoy the manufacturing end of the business, and I manage and run the daily operations of the Bigsby business (which we own).
Production scheduling, working with the guitar factories around the world and making sure I supply them on time for their production are all things I enjoy. Plus, continuing to update our software so our computer system is able to go beyond the norm. This is what I do on a daily basis. I set goals and self-motivation pushes me forward.
WiMN: Tell us about Mrs. G’s Musical Foundation.
DG: I created this foundation because of my love of children. I believe that music does make you smarter, and I love to see the smiles on the children’s faces when they are in a music class or a music performance.
My mission statement for my foundation is to “enhance children’s lives through participation in music.” I finance the music teachers and all of the instruments in the music programs. At the present time, I have two rural southern schools and eight head start programs that I sponsor.
I have been so blessed throughout my life and have met so many important artists who I have brought to these schools. They spend a day working with all of the children in the music class, and then at the end of the day we do a concert with that artist. Many of the music classes actually play with the artist. Can you imagine the memories that creates for these “rural” children?! Just think.. they get to go home and tell their moms and dads, “I performed today with Steve Ferrone who plays with Tom Petty!”
We’ve also brought in Mark Schulman who performs with Pink, and Joe Robinson, who won Australia’s Got Talent when he was just 16. My artists are my friends and they also give motivation speeches to these children. I preach that you can do anything you set your mind to; it just takes hard work to accomplish your dream.
I also supply scholarships to disadvantaged children so they can attend some of these small private schools. It not only creates memories for the children, but my artists also get so much out of spending a day with them. The children just drink up the lessons and tips the artists give them. I am humbled to be able to do this for these children.
WiMN: During your thirty-plus years in the business, you’ve signed many of the artists on the Gretsch roster. What do you look for in a musician to represent the Gretsch name?
DG: My number one requirement is that they are already a Gretsch fan. I’ve never signed an artist who wanted to add Gretsch as a “maybe” (“maybe someone else will give me a better deal”). They are off my list for sure. It’s always been someone who believes in the brand and feels proud to play the instrument.
They also have to be a better than average player, and be respected in the industry for their playing ability, not for who they’ve played with. I think if you look at the Gretsch drum and guitar roster now, you will find that. I believe our artists play Gretsch because they believe in the brand, not because of the deal they might receive.
WiMN: Do you play any instruments?
DG: Yes, I can play the African reeds, which Cindy Blackman-Santana gave me and also taught me lessons. That is the extent of the instruments I can play.
WiMN: If you could give one piece of advice to a young woman aspiring for a career this industry, what would it be?
DG: You need to have self-confidence, and you need to have a skill better than most. You need to have a proven track record. This is a tough industry to break into. Look at the people who work in the industry now –– they are all lifers. I would recommend they search all openings at any type of music industry company. Distributors, manufacturers, music stores, music magazines…you have to get your foot in the door and then try to become a star.
WiMN: Have you noticed any improvement with regard to gender inequality during the course of your career in music?
DG: I would have to say no. You look at all of the big music companies –– the Gibsons, Fenders, Martins, Guitar Centers –– it is still the men who have the executive positions. I don’t really have an answer for that.
I will tell you that I had advertised for an Operations/Finance Director (still haven’t filled the position) using a head hunting firm. I have interviewed about 20 men and haven’t had a single woman apply for the position. That’s very disappointing. I am not biased on gender in the positions that I interview for, but gosh, I wonder why the women didn’t apply. Is it the position, or that it is the music industry? Maybe we don’t have many women executives in the music industry because they see it as a tough industry for women to even enter.
WiMN: What’s in store for you and The Gretsch/Bigsby Companies in 2014?
DG: Growth. We continue to break into new markets so our brands can grow. I hope to develop more artist relationships to increase the brand image, and I always look to the development of products and ideas. We always start the New Year with the thought of “how much bigger can we get?”
Personally for me, my goal is to develop more leadership skills with our employees. I will continue to work in the office every day and attend all shows and events.
WiMN: In closing, can you tell us some things about you that our readers might not know?
DG: My mother and father married after World War II. My mother is German. My father was in the Air Force and I lived around the world and in the USA.
I developed my “no fear of men in the business” because I was the oldest child and had three younger brothers. To this day, I still tell them what to do.
I lived in England as a teenager and went through the rock revolution on English soil.
I met all of the Beatles when I was 13 years old. I was the contact with George Harrison to develop the Wilbury guitar. It all started when I wrote him a thank you note for using a Gretsch guitar on the cover of his Cloud Nine album. I attended both recordings of the Wilbury albums.
I bought my first business when I was 20.
This is my 35th year working for Gretsch. We purchased Bigsby Vibrato company in 1999 and I run that business too.
I have 16 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.