Bill and Gloria Gaither are undoubtedly two of the most successful alumni in AU history, but are at the same time largely unknown to much of the student body. The husband and wife song writing duo and associated Gaither Vocal Band have been making music for over 30 years. Starting Sep. 23, their work will be featured in the York Performance Hall Gaither Gallery as a part of the new Gaither Archive exhibits.
Tai Lipan, director of university galleries and instructor of art, calls it a “living archive because they are always adding new elements as they continue to create and have new achievements from many years of working as writers and performers.”
The Gaithers have been an integral part of the communities and histories of the Church of God, Christian and southern gospel music, and AU. The archive will be an interactive testament not only to their wide influence, but also to their love of
self-expression through the arts. The exhibit opening this fall is one of six total, with plans for one exhibit per semester over the next three years.
The Archive exhibition will be unlike any the university has seen in several because it will be interactive. Each exhibit will focus on a particular facet of the Gaithers’ work, with the first highlighting the written aspects of their work. The Gaithers are no strangers to writing, whether for song, children’s books or print media. According to Lipan, “the design of the show gives context to [the] photographs, information and listening stations so the viewer can better unfold the story of how writing has been the core of much of the Gaithers’ life work.”
The Gaithers’ writing has truly been their area of expertise and influence. Their music helped kick-start the modern Christian music movement and their songs have been covered by music icons such as Elvis Presley. The duo are responsible for many classic gospel anthems like “I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary,” “He Touched Me,” and “Because He Lives,” and they have helped jumpstart the careers of many Christian and southern gospel artists through their collaborations and tours.
“This exhibit is quite different than the programming we run through the other galleries as each of our gallery programs have a distinctive focus,” Lipan said. “The Gaither exhibit is dynamic and interactive. There will be six listening stations where you can hear the music highlighted while reading information about the Gaithers and looking at the imagery. There is a lot to see and hear. I have so much respect for [the Gaithers and their staff] not only as musicians but as writers and entrepreneurs. Students in every academic area on campus can learn a lot if they pay attention to the ambition, drive and faith of the Gaithers.”
Whereas most musicians stick to simply writing music, the Gaithers have always been eager to branch out.
Bill founded the Gaither Music Company, which handles everything from retail to television production to concerts.
Gloria helped create “Gaither Family Resources and Homecoming: The Magazine.” According to her website, she has also received seven Honorary Doctorates and has written more than forty books. Her work covers everything from “social commentary to scripts for video format; from song lyrics to magazine interviews.”
The Gaithers—who currently live in Alexandria—operate the Gaither Recording Studio, which also functions as the “homebase of these archives,” according to Lipan.
Gloria and Lipan toured the studio and were inspired to start the archive exhibitions, feeling “it would be a strong presence in the York Hall Gaither Gallery.” The Gaithers have been supporters of the university and its arts since they attended AU. Bill studied English and music, while Gloria majored in English, sociology and French, while participating in theatre and on-campus honors societies. She later returned for several years as an adjunct professor and both of them can often be seen attending on-campus concerts, recitals, and other events.
The couple’s rich history with AU and their prominent work in the music industry makes them an obvious choice for a special exhibition like the Living Archive.
With this, the first of the Archive series, students will have a rare opportunity to get to know some of AU’s most iconic and involved alumni. The exhibit will be open Tuesdays and Fridays at 1-4 p.m. (or by appointment) from Sept. 23 through Dec. 16, the last day of the semester.