Niemisto Receives Northfield Living Treasure Award


Dr. Paul Niemisto was recently named "Northfield’s Living Treasure." A special award ceremony took place on Saturday, March 9th, at the Cannon Valley Regional Orchestra (CVRO) concert. Niemisto has created and led several musical ventures, including the CVRO, the Vintage Band Festival (coming again in the summer of 2013) and numerous other musical events throughout the years. Read about the highlights in the Northfield News and this esteemed citation that now resides at Northfield’s City Hall, compliments of Northfield’s Arts and Culture Commission.

Paul Niemisto, was born and raised in a small Finnish immigrant community on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, an environment that was rich with homegrown music.  Although his mother taught piano to kids outside the family, including some of Paul’s friends, Paul followed his own path and, in fifth grade, took up the trombone.  That path subsequently led him to a Doctorate in Music Education at the University of Minnesota and, eventually, after a slight detour to teach in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada, to a teaching position at St. Olaf College, and thus, to Northfield. 

Paul’s impact on Northfield has been significant and sustained. 

Shortly after arriving here, he founded the Cannon Valley Regional Orchestra which he continued to lead for thirty-four years, giving opportunity to local amateur and professional musicians to make music together, and providing the community with access to locally performed classical music they would not otherwise have had.

Lacking a public bandstand in any of the city’s parks, it was Paul who initiated and pushed the City Council to provide the Showmobile, which now is used by many groups on many occasions, musical, literary, and for children’s and other community gatherings.

In 2006 Paul conceived and organized the International Vintage Band Festival which brought more than twenty-five bands from all over the United States and abroad, offering over one hundred free concerts in parks and halls and churches around town.  He repeated this in 2010, with not only measured cultural impact raising Northfield’s identity, but with measured economic impact as well.  The Festival will repeat again this summer, 2013.

Drawing on his Finnish heritage, Paul also founded and directs The Finnish Boys Band, a brass septet drawn from surrounding states, and in keeping with his teaching of low brass instruments, he annually directs “Tuba Christmas” (begun fifteen years ago) which brings hundreds of tuba and euphonium players of all ages flocking to St. Olaf from around the midwest to play Christmas carols, and Northfielders flocking to listen, as an adjunct to St. Olaf’s renowned Christmas Festival.

Beyond Northfield, Paul is respected nationally and internationally for his research and writing, as a clinician and soloist at music festivals, and through his leading student volunteers in efforts at Lutheran congregations in Russia.

Because of Paul Niemisto’s inspiring and sustained contributions to Northfield through music, teaching, arts entrepreneurship, and cultural support, Northfield is a better place.  Accordingly, Paul Niemisto is deemed a Northfield Living Treasure.

Paul was nominated for the award by Jane Rinehart, Heather Scott and Joan Behr. (Video here.)