The Free Design – Chris, Bruce, Sandy and Ellen Dedrick, were brothers and sisters from Delevan, N.Y., a small town near Buffalo. They grew up surrounded by music. Their father, Art Dedrick, played trombone and was chief musical arranger for big band musician Vaughn Monroe and later had a band of his own until an attack of polio put him in a wheelchair. After that, unable to travel extensively, he served as staff arranger for radio stations WGR and WBEN in Buffalo, New York. He also taught music in public schools and privately, and was instrumental in starting Kendor Music Publishing Co., an international leader in band music for schools, which still operates in Delevan today. Undaunted by his disabilities, he started his own jazz band again, and taught every one of his 6 children an instrument. Their uncle was Rusty Dedrick, who played trumpet with the likes of Red Norvo, Claude Thornhill and Ray McKinley and put out nine albums of his own. Rusty was on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, (where Chris studied trumpet and composition years later) and eventually became its director of jazz studies. His jazz band charts for the education field have received high acclaim by musicians of all ages. In 1996 he became the musical director for the prestigious Smithsonian Institute American Songbook Series with their tribute to Fats Waller and Andy Razaf. Quite a musical environment to grow up in!
Each of the Dedricks had impressive musical skills. They all sang; Sandy played the keyboard instruments; Bruce was a master with guitar and trombone, and Chris showed supreme skills with guitar, trumpet and recorder. Ellen, who joined the group straight out of high school in its second year, was also an extremely talented singer and lent her skills to quite a few of the band’s songs. All of them studied music formally, and it is safe to say they had a frightening amount of musical talent between them.