Paul Niemisto

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Paul Niemisto is founder and director of the Ameriikan Poijat (Boys of America) Finnish American Brass Ensemble. He is also founder and conductor of the Cannon Valley Regional Orchestra, a community symphony orchestra based in Northfield, Minnesota, soon to celebrate its thirty-fifth anniversary. At St. Olaf College he teaches low brass instruments, conducts brass ensembles, band, and teaches courses in music education. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has his doctorate from the University of Minnesota. Since 1980, Niemisto has been traveling regularly to Finland, where he has taught at the Lieksa International Brass week; Klemetti Institute Summer Youth Orchestra Course in Orivesi, Chief Conductor and Conducting Instructor at STM Summer Wind Orchestra Institute at Murikka opisto, and has given courses at many Finnish conservatories. He was a Fulbright Senior Research Fellow in Finland in 1999. In February 2000, he was awarded the Finnish Military Music Cross for his years of work and research in Finnish bands. His book represents almost thirty years of research. 

Cornets and Pickaxes is the story of the communities musicians, and social settings for Finnish brass bands in Northern Minnesota during the decades following 1880.

“Cornets & Pickaxes is rich, rare, illuminating, and triumphant fanfare to the remarkable musical communities of “ordinary” Finnish Americans, painstakingly yet exuberantly created from interviews, photographs, newspaper accounts, sheet music, reminiscences, and other mostly ephemeral sources that would have eluded a less dedicated and able researcher.”

— James P. Leary

Birgit Baldwin Professor of Scandinavian Studies, Director, Center for the Study

of Upper Midwestern Cultures
University of Wisconsin-Madison

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