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WARREN — Russell Girt, 89, died Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, at his residence.

He was born March 3, 1927, in Clearfield, Pa., the son of Harold and Laura Rowles Girt.

Survivors include his daughters, Candice Girt-Stojkov of Cortland and Wenda Girt-Bodley of Warren, their husbands, 6 grandchildren, 5 great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Janice Dietz Girt, and one brother.

Services have been entrusted to the Carl W. Hall Funeral Home, Warren Ohio.

Calling hours as a gathering of friends is planned there for Saturday, 2/18/17, 4pm – 6:30pm


Please Omit Flowers. In lieu of flowers – Please consider a tax deductible donation to his Memorial Scholarship Endowment Fund: "The RUSSELL S. GIRT MEMORIAL MUSIC SCHOLARSHIP”.

Make Payable to Cincinnati Scholarship Foundation – Memo “Russell S. Girt Memorial Music Scholarship Fund” – Mailing address:  C.S.F , 602 Main St., Suite 1000, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.
(Online: Please Memo: Russell S Girt Memorial Music Scholarship fund, by name, on “in memory of” box online).  A list of donor’s names will be made available to the family.

Endowment Contributions may also be provided to Carl W. Hall Funeral Home, Warren OH.

Russell Girts Music Endowment Scholarship will be dispersed in perpetuity, specific to terms, for students attending The Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, OH.

HISTORY AND LEGACY– Russ Girt attended McDonald and Girard schools, and graduated “Class of 1944” Girard High School (OH).  His class friends were known to have called him “Trig Llessur” (Russell Girt, backward). A group of friends from Class of ’44 still met regularly at a favorite restaurant in Girard, until recent years.

Russ will be remembered always as a celebrated professional clarinetist, a true legacy. He earned (both) Bachelors of Music and Masters of Music Degrees from Cincinnati Conservatory of Music (OH), 1951, 1953. also teaching there as Jr. Faculty for a time. Later he received his Bachelors in Music Education Degree for Public School Music through Youngstown State University (OH), and he gained some employment there teaching individual clarinet instruction at The Dana School of Music.

Spanning 1940s -50’s Russ played with many well-known performers of his time including Les Elgart and Larry Elgart’s Big Bands, Tommy Dorsey and Jimmy Dorsey brothers, Tee Meyers Band, Smitty’s Band, The Barney Rapp Orchestra and his Dance Band, The Deke Moffit Orchestra and Little Red Caboosers; Deke and Russ with his CCM college roommate trombonist, Jimmy “Tex” Henderson all played together a great deal, not just in Dekes bands but in other groups, and with their classmates pianist Frederick “Buddy” Savarise and trumpeter Al Hirt, at The Glen Rendevous, Beverly Hills Country club and Cincinnati’s historic Albee Theater. Most of these guys, including Russ, also played in Dr. Frank Simons Armco Steel Band (The Official Band of the Armco Steel Company).

Enlisted in Army mid-1940’s while a Clarinetist with 50th Army Ground Force Band he performed on the White House Lawn in 1946. The event received wide media. Russ, a fully classically trained clarinetist turned down a position to play clarinet with prestigious West-Point Band, respectfully voicing his desire to remain stationed at Fort Monroe VA. There he could continue performing and perfecting the “dance band music” style. While Stationed in Fort Monroe he was permitted to take some outside professional work, leaving the base and play radio shows, also performing in jazz combos and dance bands at the officers clubs, which he did.

Spanning his career he performed with 50th AGF Band, at Universal Studios, played clarinet with the Tide Water Symphony (VA), Richmond Symphony Orchestra (VA), Norfolk Symphony Orchestra (VA), Northern Kentucky Symphony (KY), Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (OH), Youngstown Symphony Orchestra (OH), Warren Chamber Orchestra (OH), among many others.

During his long career Russ performed in Backup Orchestras for Nationally acclaimed entertainers like Dick Hames, Jerry Vale, Red Skelton, Katherine Grayson, Jane Powell, Roy Clark, Guy and Ralna, Vincent Prince, the 3 stooges, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Myron Florin, Pete Condoli, Edie Adams, Jimmy Dean, Barbara Eden, Lucille Ball - Desi Arnez, the Harmonicats, Nat King Cole and so many others. The number of shows he played defies belief.

He performed music professionally for over 75 years, in various locations, genres and styles.

As a woodwind specialist and band director he played a variety of instruments. In a professional capacity he often played saxophones, flute, piccolo performing in many local Concert Bands, Jazz Bands, Dixieland Bands, Theater Pit Bands, including performing for the Kenley Players (OH),  and Kenley Theaters (Flint Michigan, Dayton and Columbus OH ), as well as having a long career with the W.D. Packard Bands (OH). He was an expert at the art of switching between multiple instruments all during one show, sometimes called “doubling”. He’d been known to make his own special instrument stands to hold them all.

Russell was an outstanding music teacher, instructing countless students and conducting countless school band events during the span of his lifetime. Throughout the course of his career Russ enjoyed many professional titles and held various positions such as President of the OMEA (Ohio Music Educators Association), President of Ohio’s State Teachers Association, or Supervisor of Music Programs K-12 Lakeview Schools. He sat on many professional committees, spent decades in various capacities as Secretary/Treasurer/Board Officer/Trustee for the AFM (American Federation of Musicians, Union Local #118), a brief list. Russell was a member of Knights Templar/Cincinnati Masonic Lodge. His father Harold Girt was Grand Master of Canfield Ohio Lodge for many years.

Russ was known to be a musical prodigy, having unusual musical talent and abilities from a very young age. By age 3-4, during the great depression, he’d learned enough ukulele chords from an uncle to play and sing folk tunes, getting nickels, dimes, and quarters – sometimes busking for house-plants. In grade-school Russell found his true love – The Clarinet. As soon as he got one as a gift, he put it together and quickly figured out some tunes himself. This reportedly shocked his music teacher at his grade school, who called his parents in for “the talk”. Russell soon began clarinet study under the direction of the late-great Professor Vincent DeMatteis, who held Music degrees from The Conservatory of Music-Naples, Florence Italy, and had immigrated to Ohio with family, expecting to lead and conduct The Ohio Leatherworks Band.

Young Russell thrived under the direction of Dr. DeMatteis, who taught him the legitimate classical clarinet style (technically Italian). Soon Russ needed a better horn, for which Russell’s mother made him practice between 2 and 4 hours every day, longer in summer. He was known around his neighborhood as “the boy who sits on his porch and plays clarinet all day”. It is believed the community rather enjoyed it, eventually. Russ enjoyed performing clarinet as a youth with the VFW Boys Band, who performed difficult Marches and Concert Band Music. By age 14 Russell was masterfully performing long public recitals, most sponsored by DeMatteis. One such recital included the difficult Rigoletto Fantasia Da Concerto for Clarinet with Piano by Giuseppe Verdi, which brought Russ wide attention and some media. An image of the young teenaged Russell appears with the newspaper clipping which detailed the event. Before age 15 he was invited by Director/Conductor Ficocelli to audition with the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra (OH), and then was hired on as a second chair clarinetist with the band. He reported being excited about “getting paid” for playing his horn. He is believed to be the youngest known member ever to enjoy professional employment playing with the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra.

Russ was just 17 years of age when hired to play in the clarinet section of the Official Armco Steel Band, under the direction of Dr. Frank Simon (A world-famous cornetist, Simon had been a student of the world-renowned John Philip Sousa). In 1943 Dr. Simon traveled to a solo event in Johnston Township OH and heard the teenaged Russell Girt (then just 16 years old). Simon subsequently provided for a full-ride scholarship for Russell to attend Music College at The Cincinnati Conservatory of Music Cincinnati OH, where Dr. Simon was a Professor of Music. Without the full-scholarship opportunities (including Oliver Ditson Scholar) or Dr. Simon promoting Russ for gigs once there, it would have been financially impossible for Russ to attend Music College. This turn-of-events was a pivot point in Russell’s life, for which he was forever grateful. He often commented about it openly, grateful spanning his entire life. The Russell S. Girt Memorial Music Scholarship is born from that flashpoint, and in the spirit of gratitude - a reminder of what Philanthropy is really about (promoting the dreams, supporting the arts).

Russell later taught as Jr. Faculty at The Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, before moving to Virginia 1954-55 taking a position as Music director for Newport News HS (VA). Russell also taught music at Bethel Tate Schools (OH), taught a half-year at Hubbard High School (OH), before accepting a permanent position 1956 as Supervisor of Music Programs for Lakeview School Systems K-12 (OH). In 1982 Russell Girt retired from teaching music in the public school, after a long 32 plus years of State teaching service. He continued to teach clarinet and woodwinds privately at Music 101 (family’s music store, founded by his daughter), and play “gigs”, where he mentored his grandson, also his clarinet student. As always, Russell was sharing the music.

He remained busy as always, playing professional gigs, and well into his 80’s continued playing with W.D Packard Concert Band, Dance Bands, Jazz Band, Big Bands, Dixieland and touring with Kline Productions, playing woodwind for Summer Fairs, Park Bands, Circuses, Festivals and lots of other gigs. In addition to local jobs, he still often traveled long distances with bands to PA, WV, KY, MI, or Southern OH. He also continued playing with his own “Russell Girts’ Dixielanders band”, performing as he had for many years, heard every Fat Tuesday at the very popular Jeffery Chrystals/Overture Restaurant (DeYor Performing Arts Cntr,,Youngstown OH).

He continued at this fast pace until he was nearly 88 years old.  Russell S. Girt retired from his position as Principal Clarinetist & Soloist with W.D. Packard bands in 2014, at age 87.  

In July of 2014 to celebrate his retirement from Packard Music Hall, the W.D. Packard Bands Executive Director Thomas Groth, with conductor and bassoonist Donald W. Bio (for conductor Dr. Stephen Gage), in accordance with tradition, did there publically awarded Russell S. Girt for his long service to the W.D. Packard bands, announcing his retirement, honoring him and presenting plaque, watch, and granting his title as a “Principal & Solo Clarinetist Emeritus”. The last part was Russell’s favorite, since the band was as family to him.

On March 12th, 2017 The Family of Russell Girt will be attending a live music concert event at W.D. Packard Music Hall, Warren Ohio, featuring the beautiful sounds of The W.D. Packard Band. Join the family to hear the free public concert. This would be a wonderful way of remembering Russell and honoring his passion and love for music. Together we can reflect and remember Russell, his spirit and life, through enjoyment of one of his truest loves – Live Music!


                                                                                                       Image-Dr. Frank Simon’s “ARMCO STEEL BAND”   



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