Acting upon a request by Grambling State University to honor one of its musical legends, the UL System Board of Supervisors approved the naming of the new performing arts center as the “Conrad Hutchinson Jr. Performing Arts Center.” Interim President Dr. Frank Pogue noted, “Since arriving here a few months ago, I have consistently heard about Conrad Hutchinson and what he meant to Grambling. After learning more about him and realizing the impact of his contributions in making Grambling a household name, I think we would be remiss if we failed to bestow this honor upon his legacy.”A special ribbon cutting ceremony for the center is tentatively scheduled Friday, May 14. For more than 37 years, Conrad Hutchinson Jr., directed the GSU marching band.
Under his leadership, the band gained international acclaim and performed throughout the world.
Band members entertained in Liberia, Japan and Panama and in the process recorded several albums. In addition to performing at Super Bowl I in Pasadena, Calif., the marching musicians also played in the 1975 Super Bowl in New Orleans and the first American Football League championship game in San Diego.
During the early 1980s, the band was also featured in a national Coca-Cola commercial. The marching band under Hutchinson was famous for rapid steps, intricate maneuvers, a sound much bigger than its size would indicate and an on-field electronic organ.
Known as an impeccable perfectionist and die-hard disciplinarian, “Hutch,” as he was affectionately known by many, arrived at Grambling College in 1952. Under his guidance, his marching unit expanded from fewer than 100 members to over 300. He retired in 1993.
Prior to leading the GSU marching band, Hutchinson, a Tuskegee Institute graduate, directed high school bands for over 12 years in Mobile, Ala., Covington, Ky., and Cincinnati. The professional musician and jazz band performer frequently played at theatrical events and stage shows and on television and radio programs.
During World War II, the multi-talented Hutchinson was in charge of U.S. Army bands in the China-Burma-India Theater. In 1972, the Hammond Organ Company recognized him as one of the Top 20 Jazz Organists. In addition, he received the Bicentennial Medal in 1976, and was named Band Director of the Year by Langston University in 1981 and Band Director of the Year by the City of Dallas in 1987.
Hutchinson made good use of his song writing talent by creating “Fight,” the GSU fight song in 1956. He also wrote “In a Rhapsodic Mood” (1950), “Overture for Band” (1967) and “Suite for Band” (1983). In addition, he published arrangements for the Big Three/Warner Brothers Catalog (14 arrangements).
Inducted into the GSU Hall of Fame in the early 1990s, the legendary band director died March 9, 1996. He was born Oct. 25, 1919 in Bloomsburg, Pa. In 2008 an endowed professorship in music was created in his honor. The $7.4 million Conrad Hutchinson Jr., Fine Arts Center covers 59,760 square feet and houses the Music Department along with a band room, and the Theatre Arts Department along with a little theatre.
This new facility includes a 242-seat theatre, 200-seat recital room, band room, Music and Theatre Arts Department offices, dressing rooms, technical equipment areas, staging area, scene and finishing shops, percussion and piano studios, computer laboratory, first aid room, choir library, small ensemble sectionals, dance studio, classrooms, faculty lounge