Stephen L. Gage, Longtime Valley Music Educator and Conductor, Dies

Stephen L. Gage, a former music professor at Youngstown State University, where he was also director of bands and the Dana Symphony Orchestra, died Sunday. He was 66.

Gage spent 28 years at YSU, retiring in 2021.

Earlier in his 42-year career as a collegiate music educator and conductor, he worked at colleges in Illinois, Kansas and New York state.

In his decades in Youngstown, he influenced hundreds of musicians as well as colleagues and students, including Melody Case of Youngstown. She first met Gage when she auditioned for the Youngstown Symphony Youth Orchestra in her freshman year of high school and continued under his instruction as a student at YSU’s Dana School of Music.

“I had never met a teacher who was so inspirational, so pure, so full of life and joy, and made everything, even the hardest pieces of music that he often liked to choose for his ensembles, so fascinating, so thrilling, and so fulfilling,” Case said.

“It was hard to be around him and not feel the energy of his love for music, people, and life. He cared about every one of his students, whether he knew them for one day during a guest conducting position or for eight years from high school through college.”

Case works at Akron Children’s Hospital but also continues to perform in local funk band Geo C and Tha Storm. She said Gage supported her well after she changed majors and graduated.

“Although I left music studies at YSU, I continued music in my life in different ways and Dr. Gage was always supportive, even when I hadn’t seen him in years.”

After retiring, Gage and his wife, Stephanie, moved to Illinois to be close to family, although he did return to the Mahoning Valley where he was a conductor of the W.D. Packard Concert Band.

Asked to list his career highlights during a 2021 interview, Gage cited being marching band director at YSU during the championship era in the 1990s performing with the YSU Wind Ensemble at Carnegie Hall in New York in 2015.

Gage had major surgery in 2020 and missed the 2020-21 academic year because of it. He had another surgery in January of this year.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.