SIOUX CITY | The name Leo Kucinski is synonymous with bringing music to Sioux City.
A native of Warsaw, Poland, Kucinski was born June 28, 1904, the oldest of eight children and the son of a pattern maker for steel companies.
He started to study the violin at the Warsaw Conservatory of Music at the age of 6. When his father recognized his son’s talent, he moved the family to Lorain, Ohio, where the boy began his study of music at the nearby Oberlin Conservatory of Music.
When he was 15, Kucinski conducted a festival grade-school orchestra in Lorain and later organized and played first violin in the Lorain String Quartet.
Kucinski came to Sioux City in 1923, not long after graduating from Lorain High School, and began teaching violin at Morningside College.
As he pursued a career in music, Kucinski received a fellowship in conducting at Juilliard Graduate School of Music. He later received a degree in music education from Morningside College in 1936, and was awarded an honorary doctor of music degree from Morningside in 1958. The Leo Kucinski Academy of Music was established at Morningside College in 2004.
Two years after arriving in Sioux City, Kuchinski took over leadership of the Morningside Orchestra. Originally organized to give students the opportunity to experience playing in an orchestra, it eventually grew to include musicians from the community and surrounding area.
By 1929, the orchestra had grown to 50 members and was renamed the Sioux City Community Orchestra. That year, Kucinski also became the director of the world famous Monahan Post American Legion Band.. It eventually became the Sioux City Municipal Band. Kucinski remained its leader until 1980.
Under his guidance, the Sioux City Community Orchestra became the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra in 1946. Kucinski continued to serve as its conductor until 1977.
Kucinski, who died in 1998, was instrumental in the effort to build the band shell at Grandview Park.