In 1981, after being elected to the wonderful brotherhood organization, The American Bandmasters Association, I soon discovered the power of real family relationships with students and fellow band directors. I attended my first ABA in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1982, where I finally met the convention hosts, Al and Gladys Wright (who were on the Gunnison Music Camp faculty in 1956 when I attended as junior high school student). Over the next 5 conventions (in Kansas, Arizona,Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Tennessee), Nell and I knew that we'd like to have the opportunity to host the ABA convention in Ashland, Oregon. At the 1985 convention our bid was accepted and we launched a 4-year plan to discover how the ABA was run and what we could do to make our convention great and unique. Each year we'd spend hours behind the scenes asking questions of convention hosts and their staff. It really paid off in getting ready to host what is surely the most complex music event anywhere.
At the Tennessee ABA convention in 1987 we presented a special comedic video about coming out West. Our presentation included footage from old western movies showing the stagecoach being chased by a band of Indians (Not that kind of band!). The voice track described how much we were looking forward to welcoming them to Oregon.
And then the real work began as we planned to host over 500 people: The members, music industry and the performing bands. The performing bands included the University of Utah, Oregon State University, The U.S. Army Band and The U.S. Navy Band as well as the host school's Southern Oregon State College Alumni Band (SOSCWATCH).
When March 1988 arrived, we had a wonderful lodging package that included a room and full American breakfast for only $42 a night in the motel known as Ashland Hills. There we hosted all the business meetings and final baquet dinner featuring Ashland Shakespeare Festival dances and entertainers with ABA President Johnny Long and his wife, Mary Lynn, as the King and Queen. The Court Jester (dressed appropriately) was John Paynter (Northwestern University and ABA Past President).
The opening speech, a special greeting to Ashland, featured the new SOSC President, Joseph Cox (who, in 1992, became the catalyst for the launch of American Band College masters degree program). Each evening featured at least one major concert either in the Music Recital Hall of Southern Oregon State College or at Hedrick Junior High in Medford. Our SOSCWATCH concert featured 143 musicians under 7 guest conductors that included John Paynter, Gladys Wright, Robert Musser, Frank Bencriscutto and Max McKee. Guest soloist for the evening was famed trumpet player, Bobby Shew, who performed Bencriscutto's Symphonic Jazz Suite.
Special trips for the 150 attending ABA members included a trip to the Redwoods and the Oregon Coast, a log-rolling competition and demonstract at Eagle Point High School and a play at the Oregon Shakeseare Theater.