PATT RALL COLUMN: Another jewel in the crown for BSU Music Department

Just this past Monday, I was privileged to represent Beltrami County at the Region 2 Arts Council's grant rounds for Arts and Cultural Heritage Grants for Schools and Arts Project Grants. Who did I see representing BSU but one of the new jewels i...

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Just this past Monday, I was privileged to represent Beltrami County at the Region 2 Arts Council's grant rounds for Arts and Cultural Heritage Grants for Schools and Arts Project Grants. Who did I see representing BSU but one of the new jewels in the crown of the Department of Music, Eric Olson. As of this time, I cannot disclose the grant winners but suffice to say that Olson was smiling when he left the hall as he has done a few times in the past. Olson has been living summers since childhood in a cabin on Big Wolf Lake, which is now a year-round-home; his father, Curtis Olson, is a 70's alum of BSU in music and taught for 30 years at Michigan State and is now back teaching at BSU as an adjunct professor in Low Brass.

Eric and his wife, Jennifer Olson, who is also an adjunct at BSU and teaches voice and song literature, consider Bemidji their home as they venture forth to other universities and venues for guest appearances. Just this past summer, Eric was the guest violinist for the Minnesota Oratorio Society and the Minnesota Pops Orchestra and played in the ensembles (string quartets) for private social occasions. When the American Ballet Theater danced in the Twin Cities, Eric was asked to play. Eric will be holding sectionals for string students at Bemidji High and Bemidji Middle schools, another project underwritten by R2AC.

Jennifer received a grant from R2AC to hold an educational presentation in March 2016 with a former teacher of hers from the University of Michigan, Caroline Helton, and Emery Stephen on traditional African American Song: interpreting the works, the poems used and performance. Stephen is a professor at Wayne State University. They will work with students and also perform a recital with traditional works.

This column was submitted before the Master Class on Saturday with Alexander Corbett, professor of strings at the University of Minnesota-Morris and the College of St. Benedict in Collegeville. Although open to the public, private violin students of Eric will receive a class in the areas they show the most promise or need coaching.

Olson will hold sectionals with BHS and BMS orchestral students in the first week of December.


Also in December, two pianists and faculty members from the University of Houston-Ana Maria Otamendi and Elena Lacheva-are returning to this area to offer coaching and master classes to musicians from BMS, BHS and TrekNorth on Dec. 10. Both Eric and Jennifer Olson will also be there to talk about careers in music and hold a short recital with the collaborative pianists.

Otamendi and Lacheva also will play at two recitals, open to the public at no charge, at 3 p.m. on Dec. 12 and 13 in Thompson Recital Hall.

"They enjoyed their experience here last March, and asked to come again," Eric said of Otamendi and Lacheva. "That says a lot about our program. The music students are very appreciative"

Eric and Conor O'Brien of the Minnesota Orchestra will hold a duo recital open to the public at 4 p.m. Jan. 17 in the Carl O. Thompson Recital Hall in Bangsberg Fine and Performing Arts Center at BSU. Before the recital, there will be a master class for students with O'Brien from 1 to 3 p.m.

Eric also has been teaching music theory as an adjunct faculty member since the fall of 2013 at BSU. He was a graduate assistant in music theory and received his master's degree from Michigan State University, along with his undergraduate degree in violin performance. He achieved his doctorate in musical arts at the University of Minnesota. He enjoys teaching music theory (as a graduate assistant since the beginning of graduate studies at both universities) and sees many pathways to follow in the future as he and his students explore applied knowledge and specific labels to sounds.

"Musical interpretation; the melodies as they were written; listening through history to the present are aspects I would want to emphasize," Eric said, "but I don't want to blow my own horn so to speak. We have two new adjunct teachers this year who are young and eager to add to the prestige of the music department."

One of the adjuncts, Kyle Hutchins, teaches saxophone and he has invited five guest artists from the Twin Cities to visit April 16 to teach classes in making reeds - an absolutely essential skill for reed instrument players-and to hold coaching workshops. No age limit for players, they can come in all day to BSU; more information to follow. Another new adjunct this year is Joshua John, who teaches bassoon.

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