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Gage’s legacy inspires Packard Band award

The W.D. Packard Concert is creating an award in memory of its late conductor Stephen L. Gage, and Gage’s predecessor will be the first recipient.

The first Dr. Stephen L. Gage “Love Music” Honor will be presented at Sunday’s band concert at Packard Music Hall.

“We just felt with the passing into eternal life of Steve Gage, we should have some kind of recognition of his contributions to the Packard Band for the time he was with us,” said Thomas Groth, executive director of the band. “It was decided to have a music award that would be presented in February.”

The award is named after Gage’s motto, “Love Music.” Members of the band were invited to nominate people for consideration, and a committee was formed to select the recipient.

Donald W. “Bill” Byo, who joined the band in 1957 and served as co-conductor and conductor of the band from 1983 until 2012, will be the first honoree.

“He was nominated by two band members,” Groth said. “After conferring with the committee members, it was really very obvious he was going to be the inaugural recipient of the honor.”

Byo, like Gage, died in 2023, but his son and daughter will be in attendance to receive the award, which will be presented by Gage’s widow, Stephanie.

The award features an acrylic heart with “Love Music” on it. Groth said the design was inspired by a drawing by one of Gage’s former Youngstown State University students, Heather Sirney, who is a band director at Warren G. Harding High School.

Guest conductor for the concert will be Timothy Shade, another former student of Gage’s who now serves as director of the school of music at Wichita State University in Kansas. Shade previously appeared with the band as a guest euphonium player, but this will be the first time he has conducted the W.D. Packard Concert Band.

The program will include Katahj Copley’s “Halcyon Hearts (An Overture to Love),” Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide: Overture,” Henry Fillmore’s “Men of Ohio” and “Crosley” marches, Chick Corea’s “Spain,” David Maslanka’s “Illumination,” the medley “Legends of Jazz” and music from the movies “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and “The Wizard of Oz.”

The concert starts at 3 p.m. Sunday at Packard Music Hall, 1703 Mahoning Ave. NW, Warren. Admission is free and funding is provided by the W.D. Packard trust.

All three ensembles under the W.D. Packard Concert Band banner will perform in the coming week.

The Big Band Sound of Packard will play its annual Valentine’s Dance from 7 to 9 p.m. tonight at Packard Music Hall.

Vocalist Tania Grubbs will join the band, led by Daniel Carioti, for an evening of big band favorites. Admission is free.

The Packard Dixieland Band will be part of the Fat Tuesday festivities at the National Packard Museum, 1899 Mahoning Ave. NW. The museum will host its annual Mardi Gras event from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Food and beverages will be available for purchase, and donations for the museum will be accepted at the door.

Groth also announced that Galen Karriker will make his debut as the band’s new conductor with its April 21 concert.

The band’s January concert, which was supposed to be Karriker’s first after his appointment, was canceled due to inclement weather. The program planned for January now will be performed at the April show.

“For this first year, Galen (who is director of bands at the University of Akron) already had a lot on his schedule, but he will be here for the April concert,” Groth said.

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