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Gary Washburn grew up and attended public school in Skiatook, Oklahoma where he was very active in music, taking piano lessons and playing in the school band. However, his original career goal was to be in Veterinary Medicine.

But, along the way his brother, Kent, got involved in a dance band called The Shadow Lake Eight. Gary was very enthusiastic about what his brother was doing, and practiced and learned the piano parts for that performing group. He was sitting in, and subbing as piano player in the group before he was even old enough to drive a car!

By his Junior year in High School, he had become the main piano player for the Shadow Lake Eight, and performed regularly with them throughout his Junior and Senior year in High School, plus went with them each summer of 1963 and 1964 to play at Rockaway Beach Resort in southern Missouri. So by the time he graduated from high school in 1964, he was a seasoned veteran of the group.

Gary attended Oklahoma State University, majoring in Music. He graduated from OSU in 1968 and left Oklahoma to attend the University of Hawaii where he pursued his Masters degree in Music. The school year of 1971-72 found Gary at the University of Boston, where he began his work on his Doctorate Degree in Music.

After returning to Hawaii, Gary was awarded a Hawaii State Foundation of the Arts Grant to perform and record “A Life In A Day” with Justin Thyme, which he promptly did, then headed off to St Louis, MO where his brother was running his own independent production company (Kent Washburn Productions), producing acts for RCA and Warner Brothers.

Gary wrote and arranged for his brother there in St Louis, then accompanied him to Hollywood, where Kent had landed an exclusive production deal with Motown Records.

Gary’s successes in Hollywood were numerous, and he was making a living in the Entertainment business. He arranged many of the things on a group called Hi Inergy, a new group that his brother was producing for Motown. In addition to his arranging credits, Gary also wrote the song Searchin’, (I Got To Find My Love) that ended up on the first album of Hi Inergy, which ultimately went Gold.

Even though his success was evident during his time in Hollywood, Gary really did not like the “Entertainment biz scene”, and much to the chagrin of his brother, packed up his stuff and moved back to Hawaii for the last and final time.

Gary spent 1977 again teaching at the University of Hawaii-Hilo, then took the high school music position offered him in the town of Honokaa, HI. However, this time around at the high school level, he made it clear up front that he was not going to teach the traditional way, and the school board incredibly gave him that freedom. Over the years, his unique concept of teaching High School music built a reputation for him as one of the best music educators in the business.

This award-winning concept of High School Band is unique only unto itself. It is completely geared toward teaching students how to become popular music performers, many of them moving on from high school into the entertainment industry. To quote Gary, ”I don’t do Marching Bands… what good is that going to be for musically inclined students in this day and age. I teach them how to compete in the real music market, “Rock & Roll”.

Gary is also one of the most sought after keyboard players on the Big Island of Hawaii. He is also a published composer with his teaching compositions being published by C.L Barnhouse, and his mainstream music being published thru Monard Music, (the publishing arm of EmKay Records).

Current Honors and Awards

In 2013 Gary was named "A Royal Hawaiian Treasure," proclaimed by the State Senate of Hawaii. He is also an inductee into The Oklahoma Jazz Music Hall of Fame as the keyboard player of the legendary Shadow Lake Eight Orchestra

Gary was awarded the "Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction Award" from the National Society of High School Scholars for the year 2011.

Additionally NARAS recently awarded his High School Program the 2011 Grammy Signature Schools Enterprise Award. The award carries a $5,500 grant from the Grammy Foundation.

"The Grammy Signature Schools program exemplifies the Grammy Foundation's commitment to fostering excellence in music education in public high schools," Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation, said in a written statement.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Anderson

11/29/13 Earth Life: October Full Moon album release
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