Austintown native joins Packard Band

The first of more than 20 performances by the W.D. Packard Concert Band and its ensembles in 2018 is scheduled Sunday at Packard Music Hall.

Austintown native Jonathan Willis will make his first appearance as a guest artist at Sunday’s concert, but it won’t be his first time playing with the band, according to Executive Director Thomas Groth.

“He substituted with the band when he was a graduate assistant at YSU (Youngstown State University),” Groth said.

Willis currently teaches trombone and euphonium and courses in music education and marching band techniques at Malone University in Canton. He previously served as director of bands for 10 years at the University of Mount Union and played with the Glenn Miller Orchestra from 1998 until 2000.

The Austintown Fitch High School graduate plays with the Tuscarawas Philharmonic Orchestra, Savoy Big Band, Sheet & Tube Brass Quartet and First Class Jazz Orchestra. He is a former member of the Opera Circle Orchestra (Cleveland), Youngstown Symphony Orchestra and The Top Notes.

He will be the featured soloist on Arthur Pryor’s “Air Varie: Annie Laurie” and will be joined by Packard trombone players William Forrester, James Jackson, Leslie Core and Michael Shevock on Henry Fillmore’s Lassus Trombone for Trombone Quintet.

Other selections for Sunday’s concert, conducted by Stephen L. Gage, include the Gershwins’ “Strike Up the Band,” Ralph Vaughn Williams’ “Toccata Marziale,” Samuel R. Hazo’s “Arabesque,” Gustav Holst’s “First Suite in E flat for Military Band,” Percy Aldridge Grainger’s “Colonial Song” and Shelley Hanson’s “Seis Manuel.”

Groth said the new season will include new and returning guest artists. John Thomson from Roosevelt University in Chicago will make his first appearance with the band as a guest conductor, and returning guest conductors in 2018 will include Jesse Leyva from Kent State University, Frank Tracz from Kansas State University and Loras John Schissel from the Blossom Festival Band.

This year’s Valentine’s Day Dance will take place on the actual holiday, and the band’s traditional Veterans Day Tribute concert will fall on Veterans Day this year.

“It’s nice that is happening,” Groth said. “That’s when it should be, but it can’t always work with our schedule being locked in on Sundays.”