SUNY Potsdam has named Wally Siebel ’68 as the recipient of its 2010 Roger B. Linden Distinguished Service Award, the highest award given by the College. The annual recognition is bestowed upon an individual who has demonstrated steadfast support for SUNY Potsdam through their leadership, advocacy, stewardship and service.
“Wally is truly deserving of this honor,” said SUNY Potsdam President Dr. John F. Schwaller. “He has become one of the most significant ambassadors for the College and the Crane School of Music as a successful musician, entrepreneur and gourmet chef. His creativity and dedication have helped to ensure that the arts continue to thrive on our campus and throughout the community.”
After graduating from SUNY Potsdam with his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education, Siebel co-founded Northern Music & Video—and his passion for service has held strong ever since. In a 2007 interview in a national trade magazine, Siebel said, “Years ago, we made a commitment to take care of people.” That’s evident: Northern Music & Video has been an anchor business in downtown Potsdam for the last 35 years.
Siebel credits his Crane School of Music background for allowing him to effectively interact with educators and students with a variety of backgrounds and needs. Over the years, he has shared that success by serving as guest lecturer at Crane music business classes and participating in roundtable discussions with music industry executives.
Siebel, an accomplished woodwind player, constantly shares his talents as a musician and as a bandleader. While an undergraduate, he was student director of The Varsity, an 18-piece big band that eventually became the Crane Jazz Ensemble. Years later he went on to form his All-Star Big Band, which tours regionally and performs regularly at College reunions and in the Crane Youth Music Camp summer concert series. Personally, Wally has had the good fortune of working with greats like Mel Tormé, Bobby Vinton, The Fifth Dimension and the Jimmy Dorsey Band. He is also the driving force behind the Community Performance Series Studio Orchestra, which has accompanied guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli and Phantom of the Opera star and Crane grad Lisa Vroman on the stage of Hosmer Hall. Additionally, he has been responsible for pulling together groups such as the Crane Alumni Big Band and the Crane Centennial Orchestra.
An accomplished gourmet cook, Siebel is a weekly guest chef at Potsdam’s 1844 House. He is responsible for starting the restaurant’s “Music Mondays” series, which showcases local talent. Siebel also originated the annual CPS fundraising dinner, “Gourmet Guys and a Gal,” cooking side-by-side with some of the area’s top chefs, while at the same time raising more than $15,000 to support the series. He also writes a weekly restaurant review column, “Food for Thought,” for the Watertown Daily Times.
Siebel has long provided stewardship to the College and its arts outreach. A past president of the Julia E. Crane Alumni Association, Siebel has served on the board of directors for the Potsdam Alumni Association and the Potsdam College Foundation. He is also active with the Orchestra of Northern New York, having provided some of the initial funding to found the group and serving as a musician-on-call when major works require his woodwind expertise. At CPS, Siebel is a sponsor and a member of the advisory board.
Siebel will be recognized for his contributions during SUNY Potsdam’s Commencement Weekend, which runs from May 21 to May 23.
Founded in 1816, SUNY Potsdam is a four-year liberal arts college nestled on the outskirts of the Adirondack Park. Among the 64 units of The State University of New York system, SUNY Potsdam has the longest history and currently enrolls approximately 4,350 undergraduate and graduate students. It is well known for its academically challenging liberal arts and sciences and teacher education programs, as well as its world-renowned Crane School of Music.