For some 35 years, Gary Ciulla directed thousands of band students in the Medina School District.
The district announced Friday that Ciulla, 61, had passed away following a brief illness and surgery.
Pliner J Donald Womens Black Viv The Kent State graduate was hired to lead Medina’s high school band in 1980 and retired from the post in 2015. He earned his master’s degree at the University of Akron.
At the time of his retirement, Ciulla had some 800 kids under his tutelage from middle school bands to the high school’s marching band and several concert bands and jazz ensembles.
For many of Ciulla’s years as the director of the high school band, it was considered one of the largest in the state, numbering close to 300 kids.
The band would march at football games on a Friday night and board buses for competitions throughout the state on Saturday morning, often earning grand champion awards at these Ohio Music Educators Association events.
Points garnered at the competitions often landed the band an early invitation to the OMEA State Marching Band Finals, where they often achieved superior ratings.
A tradition started under Ciulla was for the marching band buses — often numbering seven to eight along with a long caravan of trucks toting equipment and cars with band parents — to receive a police escort through the city’s historic Square as they made their way to Columbus for the state competition.
The marching band and jazz ensembles traveled to Florida numerous times to perform inside Disney parks. The marching band landed an invitation and performed in the Cotton Bowl Parade in 1988.
The school’s orchestra also competed in competitions and even performed three times at Severance Hall in Cleveland.
Ciulla is survived by his wife, Lori, who retired as a middle school band director for Copley-Fairlawn City Schools in 2014, and four adult children.
In an email to parents, current Medina band director Jason Locher said the band family and city are in mourning.
“Please keep the Ciulla family in your thoughts and prayers,” Locher said. “Please give them their space as they grieve.”
There was a moment of silence for Ciulla before Medina’s home football game Friday night with the band standing at attention on the field.
Calling hours will be from 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Medina High School Performing Arts Center, 851 Weymouth Road.
The funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Medina United Methodist Church 4747 Foote Road, in Medina.
Craig Webb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3547.