Music hall showing signs of life

The Trumbull County Tourism Bureau promotes it as ”Back at The Pack.” Whatever you call it, life is starting to come back to the Packard Music Hall.

The Warren Civic Music Association, the oldest community arts organization in Trumbull County, has stirred inside Packard for decades. But this season is one of its best lineups, which began last week with the Texas Tenors. The music association follows with five more shows, including well-known Collin Raye, The Lettermen and The Lowe Family.

But now Sunrise Entertainment has extended its Warren Community Amphitheatre outdoor success to the indoor venue further up Mahoning Avenue. Sunrise is complementing the music association lineup with some popular acts of its own – Michael Stanley, Kenny Rogers and Engelbert Humperdink.

Also, funding is now in place to install railings in the music hall’s balcony aisles to make the seats more accessible. The next investments should be to repave the parking lot and install an elevator.

The music hall, on the 42-acre Packard Park, has the potential to be a cultural gem for Warren. Since 1955 it has offered outstanding acoustics for artistic performances including concerts, theater, dance and lectures.

William Doud Packard, who gained wealth from the Packard Automotive Company, Packard Motor Car Company and the Packard Electric Company, businesses he founded with his brother James Ward Packard, provided the funds for the city to own the park and build the music hall.

For 20 years the Music Hall flourished. Betty White, Andy Williams, Arthur Godfrey, Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Don Ameche, Eva and Zsa Zsa Gabor, Ginger Rogers, Mae West and Phyllis Diller are a small sampling of the stars that performed there, most at the height of their careers. It was common for guests on the “Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” to talk about their upcoming performances at Packard Music Hall.

The cultural offerings began to diminish in the late 1970s and the hall is now a drain on the city and its taxpayers.

The current lineup, though still small, shows that William Doud’s vision can be restored. Success for the upcoming shows will serve as proof, and would provide confidence for promoters and financial backers.

One more thing that’s important to note for the long term is that the private sector, not the city or its employees, are the driving force. It’s long past time for Warren to eliminate its taxpayer-funded subsidy – usually $400,000 annually – to the music hall. With the right people and enough enthusiasm, the music hall can once again give back to the city.

Packard Music Hall lineup

Oct. 12 – Michael Stanley

Oct. 15 – Brian Roman

Nov. 8 – Engelbert Humperdink

Nov. 14 – Linda Eder

Dec. 9 – The Lowe Family

Dec. 10 – Kenny Rogers

March 13 – The Lettermen