Concerned for the fate of this music, Darden wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times in February 2005 about how gospel music has influenced today's contemporary hits, how new gospel releases sell millions of copies today and how, when he plays snippets of the old music during radio interviews, the public clamors for more.
"It would be more than a cultural disaster to forever lose this music," Darden wrote. "It would be a sin."
Such passion inspired Charles Royce, a businessman from Connecticut, to call Darden. Royce is president and chief investment officer of Royce & Associates, LLC, and president of The Royce Funds.
Though unfamiliar with Baylor, he was motivated to support the project because he recognized the need and was impressed by Darden's zeal. He wanted to know what could be done.
Darden submitted a proposal to Royce that involved not only digitizing the music but also preserving ephemera like photos, liner notes, record jackets and other accompanying material. On Jan. 1, 2006, Royce approved the proposal and pledged $350,000 to support the project, now known as the Royce-Darden Digitization Project in honor of both Charles Royce and Robert Darden.
During August, a notice outlining the job requirements for the position of audio engineer for the project was approved by Baylor and placed on the Baylor University website. Within the first few days, the university received a number of very strong applications.
The audio engineer will be responsible for the transfer/digitization of all recorded materials (78s, LPs, 45s, cassettes), and will work with the cataloguer (a second position that will be created and advertised later this fall) to record and organize all pertinent information.
While the formal acquisition process will not begin until the engineer has been hired, the project is already receiving much-needed donations of black gospel 78s, LPs, 45s, sheet music, magazines and photographs.
If you have something you would like to donate, please contact Robert Darden at 254.752.1468.