The American conductor, COMPOSER, and music pedagogue, Matthew John Olson, studied at New Ulm Senior High School in New Ulm, Minnesota. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from Saint Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota (2002-2006),; his Master of Music degree in Conducting from Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan (2007-2009); and his Doctorate of Musical Arts in Conducting from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (2010-2013). His studies of J.S. Bach began under Helmuth Rilling - first as a chorister, then as a conducting student at the Oregon Bach Festival. Additional J.S. Bach conducting studies include opportunities with Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra in Perigoux, France, and the Canford Orchestral Conducting School in the UK. He completed his doctorate under Kathy Romey, known widely for her work preparing professional choruses.
Matthew J. Olson leads a diverse career as a conductor, composer, educator, church musician, singer, and arts administrator. Based in Minneapolis, he is Founding Artistic Director of Oratory Bach Ensemble (since October 2012), a professional period instrument orchestra and chamber choir dedicated to the works of J.S. Bach and the composers who influenced him. He also serves as: Assistant Conductor of the professional choir The Singers - Minnesota Choral Artists; Instructor of Music and Voice at North Hennepin Community College; and Director of Choirs at Westwood Lutheran Church. Recently, he was Visiting Chorus Master of the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra (January-May 2014), culminating in a performance of Verdi's Requiem in collaboration with the Minnesota Chorale and the University of Minnesota Duluth Chorale that was broadcast live on regional television. He also served as and as assistant conductor of the Michigan State Choral Union working with the Lansing Symphony.
In addition to masterworks and standards from the choral canon, Matthew J. Olson's artistic programming explores the thinning bounds between Classical and Popular music. Highlights of these performances include the regional premiere of Credo by Sigur Ros member Kjartan Sveinsson - the first concert to be co-sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio's Classical and indie-rock sister-station, 89.3 The Current. The year prior, he collaborated with Chris Koza and his band Rogue Valley, as well as a cast of regional musicians including hip-hop artist Sims of the Doomtree Collective, and R & B musician Caroline Smith, in Minnesota Public Radio's acclaimed Works for Words™ series at St. Paul's Fitgerald Theatre. Most recently, he performed with bluegrass band Monroe Crossing as a choral conductor, educator, singer, and guitarist.
With a passion for music education, Matthew J. Olson has led choirs, orchestras, and taught courses ranging from music education methods to voice study at: the University of Wisconsin - Superior (Visiting Director of Choral Activities: September 2013-May 2014), The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (Instructor of Record: Music: September 2010-May 2013), Minneapolis Community and Technical College, North Hennepin Community College (Instructor of Music: Voice and General Music: since September 2015), and Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan (Conductor of the College Choir & Lecturer in Music: 2009-2010). His academic writings explore the relationship between educational philosophy, theology, psychology, and the art of heuristics within music education methods. He regularly guest conducts high school honors choirs, choral festivals, competitions, and clinics throughout the upper midwest. His academic writings focus on undergraduate conducting pedagogy exploring the relationship between educational philosophy, psychology, and the art of heuristics within music education methods. His forthcoming book, Fostering Facilitators: An Undergraduate Conducting Curriculum for the 21st Century, offers conducting professors a web-based, pliable resource for teaching undergraduate conducting courses.
As a composer, Matthew J. Olson's works are receiving growing performances by nationally acclaimed collegiate and community choirs. He was the winner of the 2013 Houghton College Choir Composition Prize for In Paradisum (Santa Barbara Music Publishing) - an honor that included performances by the ensemble throughout the Mid-Atlantic. His settings of poems by American poet Wendell Berry, including The Peace of Wild Things (Colla Voce, Jo-Michael Scheibe Series) and The Want of Peace (publication forthcoming) have received performances by Magnum Chorum, and choirs of St. Olaf College and Michigan State University. His interest in diverse musical styles extends into choral arrangements including Creep (Radiohead), Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (Gordon Lightfoot), Precious Lord, Take My Hand (Thomas Dorsey) and Deep River. He has also served as Composer-in-Residence for Grace University Lutheran Church in Minneapolis for whom he composed Grace Upon Grace, a festival liturgical setting for congregation, choir, organ, cantor, and brass quartet.
As a professional chorister, Matthew J. Olson has performed and recorded with the St. Olaf Choir, Carnegie Hall Festival Chorus, The Singers, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and Orchestra of St. Luke's, under many notable conductors including Anton Armstrong, Helmuth Rilling, Kathy Romey, Nicholas Kraemer, Leonard Slatkin, Andreas Delfs, Eije Oue, and Matthew Culloton. As a singer/songwriter, he debuted at The Fitzgerald Theater in Saint Paul, home of Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion, as part of Minnesota Public Radio’s highly acclaimed Works for Words program widely promoted by 89.3 The Current. He is also Director of Choral Ministries at Westwood Lutheran Church (since August 2014), and Assistant Conductor of The Singers (since August 2016).
Former positions in arts administration include work for The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, first in development, and then as special assistant to then President, Bruce Coppock. former President of the American Symphony Orchestra League and current President and Managing Director of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. He is a member of Chorus America and The American Choral Directors Association, and is Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors for National Lutheran Arts. He currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.