My Town My Music’s Local Artist Spotlight

We’re shining our next Local Artist Spotlight on John Sievers, leader and trombone man of the jazz group The D’Sievers. He also plays in several other local groups, including a brass quintet called Brass Etc., a big band called Swing Street, the John Paulson Big Band, and rock cover band After School Special.

Occasionally, John can be found dropping in on other groups, such as reggae band Push and Turn or the Americana band Jagged Ease. He is also a freelance musician and has been hired to play for groups like Martha [Reeves] & The Vandellas and The Buckinghams. John loves recording with local musicians, and you can hear his trombone on tracks from The Shift, Root River Jam, Thomas and The Shakes, and Jailhouse Payback.

John and Beth Sievers
John and Beth show off their Forager Brewery gear as part of his local T-shirt series. – Photo by Eleanor Sievers

If that isn’t enough to make your head spin, John also frequently writes about local music events for 507 Magazine and hosts Jazz Jam, an open mic at Forager Brewery, every fourth Sunday of the month.

Music is a central part of John’s life. His childhood home was a sort of musical menagerie, making room for two pianos, a minimum of four guitars, assorted brass instruments, with a stray dulcimer or bodhran sprinkled in for kicks.

In junior high band, John’s future wife Beth caught his eye, and he hasn’t looked back since. He started playing with a local big band called the Quad City Kix Orchestra in junior high and had some of his very first paying gigs aboard riverboat casinos. In high school, he played in the horn section of a rock band called Ryan and the Tonsilsnails. He spent his college years at the University of Northern Iowa, where he studied music education and recorded two CDs with UNI’s Jazz I. It’s through his musical journey that John has met the most interesting people in his life, and for that he is grateful.

John is well-known and -loved in our city. He is a huge champion for community arts, music, and business. He has a kind, giving heart and an open mind. His local t-shirt project on social media has become one of our favorite daily posts. Rochester is incredibly fortunate to have him as an advocate for local awesomeness.

At what moment did you realize your passion for performing live?
I don’t think I had a particular moment where I thought live performance was what I wanted to do with my life, but I do have a vivid memory of a high school talent show performance that involved solo musical saw playing.

What particular experiences have shaped you as a musician/performer?
I’ve been shaped by a few significant musical experiences, including my junior high band teacher Mr. Gus who taught music at a prison before he came to Frank L. Smart junior high. His humor, and the time he ripped the buttons off his dress shirt to reveal the bright red ANIMAL shirt below in order to get the tympani player to play forte have left me with a lasting love of passionate musicians. I’ve also been shaped by the many musicians I‘ve gigged with over the years who take risks and aren’t afraid to improvise.

Where is the strangest place you’ve ever performed?
Once my band played at a house party for the grand opening of a remodeled bathroom. This might have been inspired by the plunger I use as a trombone mute. Local filmmaker Tyler Aug also shot a video of one of my original jazz tunes in a rain sewer. Busking in England outside of the Barbican theatre after a Medeski Martin and Wood concert was pretty fun, too.

Meeting which artist would be most intimidating?
I’d be pretty intimidated to meet J.J. Johnson, though impossible now since he passed away in 2001. His work with the Jay and Kai Quintet in particular is really amazing.

What does live performance mean to you? Why is it important to our community?
I think live performance is important because it has the potential to create an intimate connection between performer and audience that allows both gritty imperfections and moments of musical clarity to remind us of the significance of living in the moment and appreciating each person’s unique nature. This relationship is developed most intensely by the cooperation between musicians performing together, but it is present even when solo artists connect with their audiences. Music is a way to express emotions and concepts not easily conveyed through verbal communication.

John Sievers playing with the D'sievers
John Sievers – Photo by Jeff Hansel

Do you have any projects in the works?
I’m working right now on organizing the second annual Rochester City Jazz Festival which will be held on Aug. 13th from 1-8 p.m. at the Rochester Civic Theatre.

What do you see as strengths of the Rochester music scene?
One strength of the Rochester music scene is that most area musicians are very supportive of one another. I see a lot of intermingling of individual musicians in different groups, and when I’m playing other musicians are frequently in the audience. I do my best to get out and listen to other area performers as well.

What aspects of the local scene do you feel could use improvement/more attention?
I’m an optimist by nature, so this is a hard question to answer. One addition I’d love to see in the area would be Rochester’s own jazz club.

What is your idea of a perfect venue, as a performer and/or fan?
I’m happy with a variety of venues. I like everything from intimate house concerts to outdoor stages playing for thousands. As both fan and performer, I’ve been able to experience both here in Rochester. As a fan, I think I tend to gravitate to the smaller, more intimate venue. As a performer, it can be a real thrill to have an audience of several thousand.

What is the best concert you’ve seen in Rochester?
I’d have to say that one of the best concerts I’ve seen in Rochester was Har Mar Superstar at Kathy’s, but I’ve also been blown away by hearing the Minnesota Percussion Trio at a local church, listening to the Sawtooth Brothers at a Harmony for Mayo Concert, and meeting jazz trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis at a local house concert.

What artist(s) would you love to see come to Rochester?
If it’s live music, I’m interested, but I’d love to see Trombone Shorty play Rochester.

You can catch John in action with The D’Sievers Trio at Chester’s Kitchen & Bar on Friday, August 11th, or at the second annual Rochester City Jazz Festival on August 12th.

Catch the details and nab your tickets here:

Solid Gold and Apollo Cobra in Rochester MN

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