“Al Abrams was on center stage for a music revolution that became a 1960s movement for change in a divided country.”
Fifth Third Bank and Marathon Center for the Performing Arts are proud to present The Wall of Fame, which recognizes those who have academic, professional and/or civic ties to Findlay/Hancock County, and whose impact has been recognized at the highest level in music, dance, theatre and visual arts.
The nomination period runs until December 31 each year. All nomination forms received shall be reviewed extensively by a Selection Committee comprised of community philanthropic, artistic and business members, representatives from Fifth Third Bank, and the Executive Director of MCPA. After Committee deliberation and upon selection by majority vote, a Nominee will be chosen and announced.
The public shall be invited to attend the MCPA/Fifth Third Wall of Fame Recognition Event which will occur in early May annually. The name of the annually selected Nominee shall then be permanently displayed on the Wall of Fame in the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts.
Each year on May 3 (5/3), Fifth Third Bank celebrates Fifth Third Day with service to the community. In addition to unveiling the Fifth Third Bank Wall of Fame at the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts, Fifth Third will also honor the West Ohio Food Bank for their dedication to Feeding Our Communities. Across their 12-state footprint, Fifth Third employees have provided more than 2.4 million meals since making Feeding Our Communities the focus of Fifth Third Day in 2012.
“Al Abrams was on center stage for a music revolution that became a 1960s movement for change in a divided country.”
Abrams grew up in Detroit and worked behind the scenes as a press officer for three record labels, including Motown. He created press for such famed musicians as Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Flo Ballard, The Supremes and The Miracles, and is credited with writing Bob Seger’s very first press release.
In 2009, Abrams co-wrote and starred in the musical “Memories of Motown” along with Motown song writer and record producer Mickey Stevenson.
In his 14 years as a resident of Findlay, Abrams authored several books reflecting on his involvement in the national music industry and its correlation to the Civil Rights movement. In 2011, he created “Motown Black & White,” which travels to venues around the globe.
Abrams died in 2015. His philanthropic efforts continue to benefit local agencies including the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library, Hancock Historical Museum, Zonta Club of Findlay, the Hancock County Literacy Coalition, City Mission, Hancock Park District and First Step.
Dr. Micheal F. Anders has served as a moving force in music and the performing arts for over three decades in the city of Findlay. Anders first came to Findlay College in 1981 and served as director of music of choral activities for 36 years. There, he conducted the concert-chorale which delivered concerts to the community twice annually and directed annual musical theater productions. He has also conducted numerous productions for the Findlay Light Opera Company and led performances with community choruses, often complete with a community orchestra.
Anders attracted visitors to Findlay from 16 states and three foreign countries through his presentation of the world premiere revival of the musical “REX” at the University of Findlay, as part of the 2002 International Richard Rodgers Centennial Celebration. This city-wide commemoration included the Findlay High School presentation of “Babes in Arms” and “Carousel” by the Findlay Light Opera. The Broadway Concert Series, now called the Donnell Broadway Concert Series, was founded by Anders and continues to bring Broadway performers to Findlay.
Jonathan T. Baker is involved in all aspects of the entertainment industry as a producer, writer, composer, actor and director. His filmography demonstrates a strong commitment to and passion for presenting human rights and environmental issues. He serves as an adjunct professor of feature films and entertainment economics at Carnegie Mellon’s Masters of Entertainment Industry Management, a position he has held since the program’s creation and is an adjunct faculty member with Graduate Innovation and Organization of Culture and the Arts (GIOAC) at the University of Bologna, Italy.
Baker spent his formative years in Findlay, Ohio, attending Central Junior High and graduating from Findlay High School in 1993. He was a featured performer in the show choirs Central Edition, award-winning Findlay First Edition and performed in numerous musicals. He has since gone on to work at Wall Street at Salomon Asset Management, Nederlander Production Company of America, Sony Pictures Entertainment and TriStar Films with box office films and A-list clientele.
Baker’s achievements include founding JB Studio in 2007 to develop emerging talent and guided more than 150 artists in all aspects of the entertainment industry, as well as New Renaissance Entertainment to manage a select few multi-hyphenate JB Studio students in 2015. He also received Best Actor for his role in Thank You for Not Smoking, an official entry in the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. Recently, Jonathan’s film, Crown Heights, for which he served as an executive producer, was presented at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and won the Audience Choice Award. The film was then selected by Amazon for global release and distribution.
Actor and Vocalist, 2016 Inductee
Findlay native Gavin Creel has been delighting audiences for more than 30 years –as a celebrated virtuoso vocalist, musical theater actor and television actor worldwide.
On the musical stage, Gavin played the leading role on Broadway in “Thoroughly Modern Millie;” “Mary Poppins” in London; “Hair,” both in London and on Broadway; “Book of Mormon,” in London and on Broadway, and more. He is next to perform in “She Loves Me,” in 2016 on Broadway.
On television, Gavin appeared in “Eloise at the Plaza,” and “Eloise at Christmastime,” both co-starring Julie Andrews. He also writes songs and has recorded three original albums.
Among his many achievements, Gavin is the recipient of the Sir Laurence Olivier Award in London for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for “Book of Mormon” (comparable to the Tony Award in the United States). He also received Tony Award nominations for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Hair.”
Attending Findlay schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, Gavin sang in various church choirs from the age of 3 to college age. He was active in Findlay school and vocal groups, musicals and Findlay First Edition performance group. He received his higher education from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance.
Nominator Rosanna Palmer said, “With his many achievements, Gavin maintains a supportive professional demeanor within his career while being the genuinely kind and caring individual he has always been. Most compelling is the recognition for his excellence by the members of his profession.”
Playwright, producer and theatre manager, 2017 Inductee
Russel McKinley Crouse, born in Findlay and boasting a strong Findlay heritage, is most famously known for his roles as a Broadway playwright, producer and theater manager.
Crouse first pursued a career in acting in 1928, but took a job as a publicist for the Theatre Guild and began writing for the stage, his first Broadway credit being in 1931 for “The Gang’s All Here.” Here he worked alongside some of the greatest theatrical minds, including Oscar Hammerstein and Howard Lindsay. It was with theatre veteran, Howard Lindsay, that he spent the greater portion of his career in collaboration. A partnership so successful it is considered to be one of the longest and most successful in Broadway history.
Lindsay and Crouse wrote and produced such well-known plays as “Anything Goes,” “Arsenic and Old Lace” and “The Sound of Music,” among many others. The collaboration of Crouse and Lindsay lasted until 1962, ultimately earning them a Tony achievement award in 1959 for a partnership that outlasted even that of Gilbert and Sullivan.
Among these achievements, Crouse also earned the 1946 Pulitzer Price for Drama for “State of the Union,” a 1960 Tony award for the musical, “The Sound of Music,” and holds the record for the longest-running non-musical in Broadway history, “Life with Father.” Crouse is also a member of the Theatre Hall of Fame.
Nominator Gregory Meyers said, “His theatrical legacy is an enduring one, and Findlay and Hancock County should be proud of the fact that a young boy, who grew up on First St., is responsible for some of the most iconic plays in Broadway history.”
David has played Monsieur Firmin in “Phantom of the Opera” for more than 7,000 performances, for six years on Broadway and 13 years all across America. He played Peron in “Evita” on Broadway more than 1,000 times – more than any other actor – and has appeared in 13 Broadway shows in all.
Reflecting upon his career, David was thrilled to play the same role of The Red Shadow in “The Desert Song,” on Broadway just as he had done at Findlay High School; he credits “Come Summer” on Broadway as most fun, as it was during the production he met his wife of 41 years, Britt Swanson Cryer; and he fondly remembers singing show stopper “Molasses to Rum” in Broadway show “1776.” David felt privileged to work with Leonard Bernstein in his “Mass” and played the lead role of The Celebrant at the Metropolitan Opera House all over the U.S. – more times than any other person.
Cryer is one of the founders of The American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, which was moved from its original location in Pittsburgh. He is also a founder of New York’s Mirror Repertory Theatre. As a producer, Cryer teamed with Albert Poland to create national tour “The Fantasticks” and “Now is Time for All Good Men,” which played in a New York theater now known as the Lucille Lortel Theatre. He also directed Bernstein’s “Mass” for the Seattle Opera.
Cryer appeared in movies “New York Stories,” “American Gigolo,” and “Escape from Alcatraz.” On television, he played roles on “Law and Order,” “Dallas,” and “Wonder Woman” (during which he notes he was lassoed by the woman), and appeared in soap operas “Where the Heart Is” and “As the World Turns.
Barbra J. Hennigs is a dancer and choreographer who has shared her immense talents with Findlay for over 40 years. Her dance career began at a young age with lessons at the St. Louis Muny, and by 18, she was performing on Broadway in Guys and Dolls.
After touring with the traveling Guys and Dolls troupe, she spent 4 years on TV’s Sid Ceasar’s The Show of Shows, a 90-minute weekly variety show in the 1950s. When Hennigs and her family moved to Findlay, she immediately recognized the need for adult dance lessons. She founded the ETC Dance Studio offering jazz, tap, ballroom, ballet and even yoga.
Hennigs choreographed many of the musicals produced by the Findlay Light Opera Company, University of Findlay, Fort Findlay Playhouse, Findlay City Schools, Carey Schools and regional theaters throughout Northwest Ohio. In December 2001, she was honored by the University of Findlay with the Distinguished Wall of Fame Award through the Curtain Raisers society. With a keen eye for ability and a great talent for choreography, she has been able to bring the joy and expression of dance to the city of Findlay and beyond.
Music Teacher and Director (posthumous honoree), 2016 Inductee
Cliff Hite, Findlay’s “music man,” influenced and enriched the lives of thousands in the Findlay community from 1943 to 2004.
Among his many contributions, Cliff served as coordinator of vocal and instrumental music at Findlay High School, teaching music and conducting the concert and marching bands, as well as the symphony orchestra. Under his direction, the concert band received acclaim at numerous invitational events, and was chosen to be on the Historic Roll of Honor of High School Bands of America. This nationally renowned band was invited to perform at music venues in local colleges and universities, Chicago, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
In the 1950s, Hite organized and became conductor of the Findlay Civic Symphony Orchestra, made up of community members from all walks of life who still wanted to make music. He directed choirs at two churches in Findlay, directed the summer concert series held at Riverside Park, and from 1987 to 1990, directed the Findlay Light Opera Company, among other accomplishments.
He taught summer sessions at The Ohio State University and The University of Kentucky, and served on the faculty of the University of Findlay.
Cliff was on the receiving end of numerous accolades, most notably the national Mack Award, an Honorary Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Findlay, and in 1988 was enshrined into the Ohio Band Directors Conference Hall of Fame.
Musician, 2017 Inductee
John Scott Lavender, graduate from the Findlay High School class of 1971, credits his Findlay middle school music teacher, Lyle Miller, as the catalyst for his musical endeavors. Having spent his childhood and formative years in Findlay, Ohio, Lavender went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in piano performance from Bowling Green State University and his master’s in conducting from California State University.
Boasting a professional career of over 40 years, Lavender is an entrepreneur in the music industry playing, conducting, teaching, managing, arranging and writing for a wide variety of performing soloists, groups and institutions.
Whether collaborating or performing his own unique arrangements on stage, Lavender is a regularly welcomed guest with orchestras around the globe. But perhaps is most well known for his 24-year musical direction of world celebrity, Johnny Mathis. He has also spent time directing artists, Glenn Yarbough and Toni Tennille.
More recently, Lavender has been working as an adjunct associate professor at BGSU, a conductor for the Ohio Northern University Symphony Orchestra, a Tiffin University artist in residence, and an adjunct professor of music at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, California. He also volunteers his time and talent on local committees and at area music events.
Educator and Findlay Light Opera Company Founder (posthumous honoree), 2016 Inductee
Dr. William “Jack” McBride left an indelible mark on the Findlay community, both in founding the Findlay LightOpera Company and through a lifetime of successful involvement in music and music education until his death in 2007. Jack was vice president for academic affairs and dean of Findlay College from 1964 to 1984, then served as assistant to the president under Dr. Ken Zirkle until his retirement in 1992.
McBride greatly strengthened the arts at Findlay College and was founding chair in 1983 of the Findlay Light Opera Company. The FLOC offered summer music programming for 25 years on the Central Auditorium stage, now the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts. The widely-enjoyed performances brought high-quality, fully-staged operetta and musical theater to the Findlay community, drawing large audiences, attracting talented outside performers, and providing opportunity for local talent to perform.
Born in Beaver Falls, Pa., Jack attended the Julliard School of Music for one year and earned a professional diploma in music performance. He held master’s and doctoral degrees in music education from Columbia University and earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio. Jack shared his extensive musical expertise with the FLOC both on and off the stage, as a performer, chorus master, and adamant promoter.
Dr. McBride served in the Navy during World War II and married wife, Betty McCrory, in 1947. Before coming to Findlay in 1964, he was dean of students at Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio; associate professor at the Conservatory of Music at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio; and a teacher at Rye Country Day School in New York and Bessemer Public Schools in Alabama.
Celebrated pianist and piano teacher, 2016 Inductee
Wendene Shoupe has been a concert pianist and piano teacher in Findlay for more than 50 years. Originally fromTexas, she was trained at the Juilliard School of Music, and through the years has positively shaped and enhanced the lives of countless students. Her many outstanding performances have been enjoyed and cherished by the community, and her accolades are many. She is a member of Mu Phi Epsilon, a fraternity for outstanding musicians, and has received awards from the organization.
Nominator and internationally-acclaimed professional organist Joshua Brodbeck shared, “When I took piano lessons from her, she pushed me towards excellence and I think her work ethic helped me to achieve my professional musical goals. …Although she is a trained concert pianist, she also made time to accompany students for Solo and Ensemble contests.
Philip Sugden is an expert in pen and ink drawing, and makes his own paper. He is an accomplished painter, and has made and produced videos and illustrated books. He has traveled around the world, and is not afraid to make a political statement in his work.
In 1988, Sugden met the Dalai Lama during an eight-month trip of drawing and painting, writing and interviewing, photographing and planning, in Tibet and the Himalaya. This trip culminated in a 30-minute PBS film and companion book titled “White Lotus: An Introduction to Tibetan Culture.” In 1991, he brought the Dalai Lama to Findlay.
In 2015, he and wife Carole Elchert secured scholars’ visas to film and interview the activist-artists of Havana, Cuba. The trailer for their resulting film, “Activismo: Art & Dissidence in Cuba,” can be viewed on YouTube, with screening, festival submissions and promotion planned for 2019.
Sugden’s work has been exhibited in over 200 shows throughout the United States and abroad, yet he maintains his studio in downtown Findlay. He has been an art professor at Bluffton University for over three decades, and will step down as chairman of the art department this summer. He is a former member of the University of Findlay’s Art Department.
Sugden teaches artist workshops in prisons, donates artwork to Findlay’s American Red Cross chapter and various other nonprofits, and serves on advisory boards for various local nonprofits. He and Elchert have organized many collegiate cross-cultural trips to foreign countries, and provide scholarships at the Amrit School in Kathmandu.
Jack M. Taylor has played a leading role in band, orchestra, jazz and instrumental music organizations in Findlay and Northwest Ohio for over 30 years.
Following the leadership of Cliff Hite and Ralph Shell, Taylor was asked to take over the Findlay Civic Band in 1988. Formed nearly 70 years ago, the band performs multiple summer concerts at Riverside Park. In 1989, he organized the Flag City Concert Band, which has performed overseas three times and was the principal music support group when Findlay was designated Flag City in 1992. Also a composer, Taylor personally wrote the “Flag City March,” the official band music of the City of Findlay.
Taylor has worked closely with local high school bands and the University of Findlay bands throughout his career and is widely considered an authority on band music and performance. Many of his concerts feature over 100 performers on stage together. He also plays personally for area organizations and churches, along with private events.