Gatlin Brothers honor three OHS fine arts directors

Rudy and Larry Gatlin and Suzanne Medlen sing the OHS school songs during a ceremony at the OHS Performing Arts Center Thursday honoring impacful fine arts directors, Choir Director Maurice Alfred Wash, Band Director Bill Dean and Choir Director Suzanne Medlen. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

The Gatlin Brothers on Thursday recognized three fine arts directors who had an impact on them and thousands of others — Choir Director Maurice Alfred Wash, Band Director Bill Dean and Choir Director Suzanne Medlen.

The ceremony, emceed by Rudy Gatlin, was held at the Odessa High School Performing Arts Center. Brother Larry Gatlin also joined in.

Rudy Gatlin said it was a wonderful event with a great turnout.

Wash, Dean and Medlen taught at Odessa High School. Wash and Dean have passed away.

Rudy Gatlin said all the impact the three of them had was beyond measure.

“It would be hard to calculate what it has meant to all of us and I hope it was quite evident. We share the sentiments of hundreds, if not thousands,” Rudy Gatlin said.

Medlen was at OHS for 37 years; Dean for 21; and Wash for 11 years before moving on to Odessa College.

Rudy Gatlin said the goal in the future is to recognize students and some other music teachers who have gone on to careers in the arts or music education.

He said he hadn’t seen some of the people who attended the ceremony in a long time.

“But it sure is good to see some old friends. We were blessed beyond measure with friendships that go way back and some new ones we’ve made through the years. It’s a very special place. This is our home. Don’t let anybody ever tell you that you can’t go home, or you don’t want to go home, or it’s Odessa; it’s flat and ugly. The people make this place very, very special to the Gatlin Brothers,” Rudy Gatlin said.

He and Larry Gatlin said the teachers at OHS were incredible.

Rudy Gatlin said the arts are very important and in some places they are trying to get rid of it in schools.

“It helps all the other subjects — English, geometry, algebra, history. It’s proven that music, theater, dance and arts, improve every facet,” he said.

One thing that was instilled in him at OHS was a love and appreciation of music.

“It means so much through the years to know how hard they worked in helping us and wanting us to understand how wonderful music is” and the other arts, Rudy Gatlin said.

Rudy Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers hugs Suzanne Medlen Thursday night at the OHS Performing Arts Center. Medlen was one of the fine arts directors honored along with Choir Director Maurice Alfred Wash and Band Director Bill Dean. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

Permian Director of Choirs Laurie Wash is the daughter of Maurice Alfred Wash.

“It is wonderful to be surrounded by people who love music, love the people who were a part of all our heritage, to create an event where everyone can uplift everyone else is just amazing,” Wash said.

“It’s very humbling to be a part of such a legacy of so many people here in Odessa. It’s been going for a long time,” she added.

She added that her parents taught her a love of music, but also the Creator.

“That infiltrates every part of what you do. That love for the Lord and sharing his love with others,” Wash said.

She added that kids walk around listening to music in their ears to help placate them and calm them down, but “The maker of music can help with that more than just the pieces.” `

Larry Gatlin said through the years they have received arts and letters and people tell them their music has inspired them or helped them on their life’s journey.

“What we’re really doing is passing along what our mom and our granddad and these nice people, your mom and pop (referring to Laurie Wash) instilled in us. Nietzsche said without music, life would be insane,” Larry Gatlin said.

He added that music touches people when nothing else will.

Medlen thanked all those who came out Thursday night and said she was deeply honored and overwhelmed to be recognized.

She added that everybody needs someone to help them set their goals higher and to work toward them.

“For me, I think the Gatlins show that. These people walked in the very halls you’re walking in. They came from the same backgrounds that you come from and look what they’ve achieved because they worked toward a goal and set their goal and accomplished it. To me that’s important to all of us as we work no matter whether we’re still in school, or whether we graduated,” Medlen said.

Kayla Patton, who lives in Lubbock, said Medlen was her choir director. Patton graduated in 2009 and Medlen retired in 2007.

“She’s as fun as ever. … My sophomore year, we got to go to New York City and we had fun doing that. It brought back all those memories,” Patton said.

Lindsey Lumpkin, who is Head of Schools at First Odessa Christian Academy, said Medlen was her choir director, as well. She’s OHS Class of 1999.

She goes to church with Medlen, has dinner with her sometimes and takes voice lessons from her once in a while.

Lumpkin said the three honorees deserve so much.

“It’s a wonderful way to highlight the legacy that Odessa High School has and has had for years. I’m just honored to be here,” she added.

She said they would do absolutely anything for her “because we adore her.”

“She was hard on us, but she was amazing,” Lumpkin said.