Rosemount band director inducted into Youth in Music Hall of Fame
Directors and students in the Rosemount High School band program have earned a lot of individual awards over the years, but ask them about those honors, and they will say it was a team effort.
When RHS band director Leon Sieve was inducted into the Youth in Music Hall of Fame during the annual state marching band festival this month at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, he took the opportunity to congratulate the bands performing that night.
“Having just been through a very challenging year and half as arts educators and student musicians, it is amazing to see the creativity, excellence and excitement on the field,” Sieve said. “Kudos to all the students who share the passion of band with each other and the audience today. We will come out of the pandemic stronger than ever!”
Sieve, who has been a director at the school since 2002, has helped guide the program to lofty heights and a tradition of excellence, but he knows the program is only as good as the students who put in the hard work to keep it there.
The school’s marching, concert, and performing ensembles and individuals have won state and national awards, including earning invitations to perform at the iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Tournament of Roses Parade, clinics and more.
As much as students earn the praise of their directors and teachers, there’s still lots of adulation for directors like Sieve who help make it happen.
“I can’t think of anyone as deserving of this Hall of Fame induction as Leon Sieve,” said Christy Vaillant, RHS marching band (1988-1991), marching band parent (2015-present) and band booster board member. “Leon has an undeniable passion for the marching arts that he shares with his students, parents and school. And, he’s a creative visionary who is always thinking about the next story he wants to tell on the field.”
The marching band has consistently placed at the top of state and national and state marching band competitions, such as Youth in Music and the Bands of America. It has earned Class 4A state champion honors 14 times at YIM since 2005.
“Leon is driven and expects a lot from his students because he knows how great they will feel when they step off the field after a successful performance. And they do,” Vaillant said. “Most kids at Rosemount march all four years despite hours and hours of practice because they can’t get enough. The Rosemount marching band program has evolved tremendously under Leon’s leadership and I expect it will continue to do so for many years to come.”
Sieve team teaches the fall marching band with directors Taylor Eliason, Calvin Lipetsky and Scott Palmer.
At his induction into the Hall of Fame, Sieve thanked his current and past Rosemount colleagues Olsen and Bojan Hoover. Sieve also praised current and past RHS administrators Greg Clausen, Rita Gundacker, Kimberly Budde, John Wollershiem, Pete Roback and Calvin Keasling for supporting the program.
“He is a fantastic leader,” said Rosemount band director Taylor Eliason, who was Sieve’s student from 2002-06. “He knows the craft inside and out.”
Eliason said Sieve has a creative vision for the program and knows how to achieve it.
“The culture that has been built here is very much one that strives for excellence all of the time and at the same time remains humble,” Eliason said. “He is humble about the work he has done here. There is no ego in the culture here.”
As one who likes having a full schedule, Sieve also conducts the RHS Wind Ensemble, woodwind chamber ensemble and winter pep band. He is the program’s woodwind specialist and coordinates entrants for solo and ensemble contests along with the award-winning RHS Color Guard.
He directs the musical “pit” for the RHS Drama Department and has held the role of department coordinator for the music, art and dance department.
“Leon has been a leader and innovator in the Minnesota band-world for three decades,” said former colleague and longtime RHS band director Steve Olsen. “Leon is well known for creating excellence, exceeding expectations and consistently redefining high-level performance standards.”
Olsen said Sieve is a highly sought out composer and professional adjudicator of marching band and pageantry arts contests, parades and events. Sieve has written choreography and visual design for nearly 40 high schools throughout Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois and Oklahoma.
As a testament to the program, a large number of Rosemount students enroll in band, as it is consistently among the largest in the state. Many students also earn awards in the solo and ensemble contests.
“While I am obviously very biased – Leon and I have shared a lengthy and wonderful friendship – and we happily worked together for many years at Rosemount – and I know him well – and I attribute much of the success of the RHS Marching Band to his passionate vision and hard work,” Olsen said.
Olsen said he has unending admiration and respect for Sieve.
“His creativity, work ethic, dedication to his students and commitment to excellence is unsurpassed,” he said. “He is a highly successful model of what grit, determination, hard work, courage, creativity, dedication, goal-setting and a tough love/kind heart can do to empower students and lead them to surpass their own expectations, overcome challenging life situations and realize personal and group potential they didn’t even know they had.”
This isn’t the first time that Sieve has been recognized for his outstanding work.
He was awarded a Leadership in Educational Excellence award and was the 2001 recipient of the Minnesota Distinguished Young Band Director Award.
“We are forever grateful for the time and talents that Mr. Sieve shares with the Rosemount band family,” said Audra Simmering, RHS marching band parent (2013-present) and band booster board member. “His passion and love of the marching arts is a true gift to our school, our district and the state of Minnesota. His visionary approach has not only brought the RHS band program to where it is today, but has influenced and shaped the lives of thousands of students he has taught over the span of his career.”
Sieve started playing saxophone when he was in the fourth grade in the small southwest Minnesota town of Adrian.
He said he credits band director Joe Silko’s energy and enthusiasm for getting him started on an instrumental music path.
In high school, Sieve was marching band drum major and was part of the concert, jazz and pep bands. At South Dakota State University, he was a member of the Pride of the Dakotas marching band, along with symphonic and jazz bands.
He received a Bachelor of Music Education from South Dakota State University in Brookings and Master’s from the American Band College at Southern Oregon University in Ashland.
He was selected as a member of the Madison (Wisconsin) Scouts and the Black Gold (Tulsa, Oklahoma) drum and bugle corps.
“I am forever grateful to the people I met, the places I was able to perform and the experiences I had while touring the country as a drum corps member,” Sieve said.
Sieve is in his 29th year of teaching instrumental music.
He also taught music at Minnesota high schools in Litchfield, Grand Rapids, Park Center, Milaca, and Sioux Falls Lincoln High School in South Dakota before arriving in Rosemount.
Tad Johnson can be reached at email@example.com.