ABERDEEN, S.D. – Lonn Sweet, dean emeritus of the Northern State University School of Fine Arts, died May 29, 2014, in Sun City West, Ariz.
From Scotland, S.D., Sweet’s career in music education serving collegiate and high school students spanned 40 years. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of South Dakota-Springfield and a master’s degree from the University of South Dakota, Vermillion. He began teaching in Springfield Public Schools in 1961, serving five years as K-12 band and choral director.
In 1966, Sweet entered higher education as director of bands at the University of South Dakota-Springfield. In 1974, he began what became a 27-year career at NSU. In his early years at NSU, he directed the marching/symphonic band and taught low brass and upper level music courses. He served as chair of the music/theater department from 1975 to 1985 and was named dean of the NSU School of Fine Arts in 1985. He retired from NSU in the spring of 2000.
Sweet served as a clinic/festival guest conductor all over the Midwest. His career was marked with local, state and national distinctions, which included serving as president of the Aberdeen Community Concert Association, business manager of the South Dakota Musician magazine, president of the South Dakota chapter of Phi Beta Mu, and Region III president of the National Association of Schools of Music.
Throughout his career, Sweet was honored with several awards, including the USD-Springfield Outstanding Alumnus, Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Contributions to the field of Music Education, NFIMA Outstanding Music Educator Award and Friends of the Arts Award by the Aberdeen Arts Council. In 1998, he was honored by the Aberdeen Rotary Club as a “Paul Harris Fellow.”
Sweet was the originator of the first Merry Tuba Christmas in South Dakota, and served as host of the Region IV music contests and the South Dakota All State Chorus and Orchestra.
Sweet also served the Aberdeen community as director/member of the Aberdeen Elks Chorus, and as director/member of the First United Methodist Church choir. Sweet adjudicated numerous large and small ensemble contests in South Dakota and North Dakota, served as music camp director in South Dakota and Oklahoma, and directed numerous festival bands during his career.
Sweet is survived by his wife, Dorothy, of Sun City West; son, Perry Sweet, his wife, Nancy, and their son, Justin, of Chicago; daughter, Lonna Boen, her husband, Steve, and their daughters, Sara and Carli, all of Kansas City; and sister, Glee Deutscher, of Scotland, S.D.
A memorial celebration is being planned in the fall in Sun City West, Ariz. All memorials will go to the Lonn Sweet Music Scholarship at Northern State University.