When Curtis Panio thinks of his father, Vlad Panio, he envisions the late Saskatchewan polka playing great with an accordion.
“When I was a kid we would go to retirement homes and he would play — even for them on the side — just to keep them happy and bring some joy,” Curtis recalled, adding the fondest memories with his dad were when he was on tour was and sold his albums before shows.
Vlad died on July 9th at the age of 75 after a brief but violent battle with cancer.
He leaves behind the legacy of the Panio Brothers Band – the Ukrainian folk band he formed in 1969 with brothers John and Dave Panio and friends Bill Lewchyshyn and Henry Panagabko.
Together they played countless concerts, weddings and cabarets on the prairies.
“The crowd was energetic and filled the floor – they loved dancing to the Panio Brothers,” Lewchyshyn recalled with a laugh.
The band was inducted into the Ukrainian Music Hall of Fame in 2015 and received the Lifetime Achievement Award a year later.
In 2018, Vlad was individually honored with the Legend of Ukrainian Music Award from the Ukrainian Music Union.
“Everywhere I go, to this day I get asked… ‘Are you related to the Panio brothers?’ It’s amazing — and a tribute to them for what they accomplished and the people they touched in these prairie provinces,” Curtis said.
HEAR | Memory of the life of Vlad Panio:
The morning edition – Sask6:41Son vows to “keep the music alive” in late Sask. the honor of the polka star
life outside of music
In addition to making music, Vlad pursued a teaching career that eventually led to him taking a job as a school principal in rural Saskatchewan. In his later years he worked as a school bus driver.
“He was a devoted father, a devoted musician — a devoted whatever he did,” Curtis said, noting that his father never missed a day of work.
“[Vlad] was certainly committed and he was passionate about the music and determined to make a name for himself,” said Lewchyshyn. “I valued him as a friend.”
While Curtis regrets never having learned an instrument from his father, he says he is now determined to take his late father’s and uncle John’s love of music and channel it into learning to play the guitar.
“We will miss them so much on a personal level and of course professionally – but we will try to keep the music alive.”