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Olson returns to his roots: Bemidji State graduate back on campus, will conduct trombone concert Sunday

Curt Olson conducts a recent rehearsal of the Trombone Choir, which will perform an hour-long free concert at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Joe Froemming | Bemidji Pioneer1 / 2
Curt Olson spent much of his career at Michigan State University before returning to his alma mater, Bemidji State, last year. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer2 / 2

BEMIDJI — The adjunct professor of low brass at Bemidji State University is returning to his alma mater after 41 years.

The school that started Curt Olson’s educational career tempted him with the offer to come back as an adjunct and he accepted.

Olson, who received his bachelor of science degree in music education in the spring of 1972, has reunited with his former teacher, Tom Swanson, who taught brass at the college for many years.

The two men will be conducting and performing in the Trombone Choir’s concert at 7:30 p.m. Sunday in Thompson Recital Hall of the Bangsberg Fine and Performing Arts Complex on the campus of BSU, 14th Street and Birchmont Drive NE.

They hope to attract lovers of trombone music played by 14 players ranging in age from 18 to 78 in a program of Baroque music: Haydn, Handel and Bach. There is one romantic piece, "Nimrod," from the Enigma Variations by Sir Edward Elgar, and a tonal piece by Eric Ewazen, a Fanfare written for the Juilliard School of Music’s Trombone Choir. The concert will last approximately one hour and is free and open to the public.

There is an extensive repertoire of trombone music as composers in all eras wrote music for the instrument. The sliding of the tube back and forth, along with the breath of the player, makes the notes. There are no valves on the trombone as opposed to other brass instruments and it is said to be the oldest brass instrument dating back more than 600 years.

"Trombones are meant to be played in ensembles," said Olson, "and that is part of the allure. You are always playing with somebody else so there’s the social aspect to it. And there is a great repertoire of music for trombones.

"For this concert we will have four bass and 10 tenor trombones and for one of the pieces an alto horn. We would welcome anyone from the community who plays the trombone to join us and that includes high school players."

Olson, who holds the titles of professor and associate dean emeritus at Michigan State University, actually started teaching here last year, making the trip back and forth to Michigan while he fulfilled contractual obligations.

But now he is here to stay, filled with the enthusiasm needed to teach and conduct the Trombone Choir.

"My wife, the former Judy Norden, was born in Bemidji and we love it here," Olson said. "We still have relatives here and built a small cabin on Wolf Lake 30 years ago and we would come back for Christmas and the summer. We’re excited to retire here and anxious to explore the area."

Their son, Eric, is finishing his doctorate of musical arts degree at the University of Minnesota and also is an adjunct here at BSU, teaching violin. Their daughter, Nora, has a dual degree in English and music and has chosen to teach English in the Rochester suburbs.

"We’re excited to retire here and anxious to explore the area," Olson said.