The Canton Concert Band
The Canton Concert Band’s personnel consists of a core of thirty-five paid professional musicians, each a member of the Canton Local 111 branch of the American Federation of Musicians. Of these members, many hold degrees in music and are respected educators representing every school district in Stark County as well as several universities, including: Kent State University, Malone University and the University of Mount Union. In addition to its professional members, the Canton Concert Band is supplemented by a group of outstanding community musicians and a select group of highly talented high school and college students who play on a volunteer basis.
More than 100 years of music
It all began in 1866, when fifteen Stark County veterans gathered to form the Grand Army Band as a tribute to their fallen Union comrades. The group’s first leader, Charles Fiala, a European-trained classical musician, added local musicians to the band’s ranks and through his tutelage, the group quickly earned a reputation as one of the finest musical organizations in the area. As the reputation of the band spread, more musicians were attracted by the burgeoning opportunities in Stark County, including H. Clark Thayer, professor of Music at Dana School of Music (now part of Youngstown State University), and Thayer’s student, William Strassner, Canton’s first high school band director.
Strassner and his brothers, along with several of Thayer’s other students, formed the Thayer Band in tribute to their teacher and in 1892, the band gave its premiere performance for Decoration Day (now Memorial Day). In following years, both bands played side-by-side for many historic events, including William McKinley’s congressional campaigns, conventions, and, ultimately, his funeral.
Over the course of the 20th century, the Grand Army Band faded and the Thayer Band rose to prominence. As membership waned and merged, eventually the Thayer Band and a third Canton group, the Nazir Grotto Band, combined in 1968 to form the Canton Community Band, now known as Canton Concert Band. Today’s band consists of a core of American Federation of Musician members, community members, college students, and a select group of high school musicians. Each set of summer concerts is led by a rotation of guest conductors chosen from local high school and collegiate music faculty.
The Canton Concert Band holds a uniquely important place in Canton’s history. The band’s venue provides the opportunity for union musicians, community members, and talented students to perform. As our group has evolved and incorporated different musical genres, our use of guest conductors for each set of concerts ensures diversity in programming. Most importantly – and in keeping with tradition – the music the Canton Concert Band provides to the public is FREE. But, as with all arts-based endeavors, without community and local business support, the future of the band is in jeopardy. We hope you will consider supporting our dedicated commitment to preserve, progress, and continue to provide live music for our community!