Dr. Robert Olson – Music Director
“Electrifying…..the most exciting musical experiences I’ve had in eight years here. Period.” – Kansas City Star
“An outstanding conductor” – Daily Times Call
“….considered one of the major American conductors,” – Musique in Belgium
“A performance I shall long cherish,” – American Record Guide
“Master of Mahler,” – Daily Camera
Above is a sampling of reviews that Maestro Robert Olson, now in his 31stth year as Music Director of the Longmont Symphony Orchestras has garnered in recent years. During his remarkable tenure, the orchestra has grown to statewide prominence, featured regularly on KVOD’s “Spotlight on Colorado” performing some of the repertoire’s most demanding music. The Longmont Symphony Orchestra has grown steadily during that time, collecting rave reviews from critics all over the Front Range:
“Symphony gives beautiful interpretation of Brahms”
“Verdi’s Requiem remarkable”
“LSO offered a grand opening”
“…played as hauntingly as I have ever heard”
“Longmont boasts best Nutcracker”
In 1990, Olson moved to Kansas City where he assumed the position of Director of Orchestras/Opera at the conservatory of Music, University of Missouri-Kansas city, taking the orchestral program to such heights Scott Cantrell of the Dallas News said “the orchestra plays with more finesse than that of the Eastman School of Music”! In 1992 he assumed the additional position of Conductor for the Kansas City Ballet, a position he held for fourteen years, conducting both the St. Louis and Kansas City Symphonies in over 600 performances.
Recognized internationally for his interpretation of Gustav Mahler, he is founder and Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest, an annual festival held in boulder celebrating the music of Mahler. Olson and the MahlerFest were featured in a full-page article in the New York Times, January 17th 2002, in which they wrote “He may be more steeped in the music of Mahler than any American alive.”
Beginning as a loyal manifestation of Mahlerian enthusiasm, it has been elevated to an internationally acclaimed event, and recognized as such with the awarding of the most coveted prize in the discipline, the Mahler Gold Medal. In September of 2005, MahlerFest Board President Stan Ruttenberg and Maestro Olson traveled to Vienna, Austria to receive this prestigious and rarely given award from the international Gustav Mahler Society, sharing the stage with the New York Philharmonic as one of the recipients. The list of past recipients reads as a “Who’s Who” of the musical world: Leonard Bernstein, Claudio Abbado, the Vienna Philharmonic, and Dietrich Fischer-Diskau, to name a few.
Olson’s and the MahlerFest’s achievements are many: an Eighth Symphony “Symphony of a Thousand” reviews as “legendary” and “one of the best ever made”; a new performing edition of the Wheeler realization of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony recorded both by the MahlerFest and for Naxos Records with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (“It would be difficult to conceive a performance better shaped and conducted that what Olson offers here.”); a soon to be completed massive CD set of every work ever written by Mahler, all performed by the MahlerFest orchestra by one conductor; several international symposia featuring the world’s greatest Mahler scholars, and so on. Olson was also deeply moved on two different occasions by the presentation from the New York Mahler Society of a baton once owned by Mahler himself.
He has held conducting posts with the Omaha Symphony, Boulder Baroque Chamber Orchestra the University of Colorado (opera and orchestra), Boulder Civic Opera, Arapahoe Chamber Orchestra, Arvada Chamber Orchestra, Rocky Ridge Music Festival Orchestra and the Colorado Gilbert and Sullivan Festival.
Olson has an impressive list of guest conducting invitations, including the Miami City Ballet, the National Symphony of China in Beijing, the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra in the Czech Republic (“the world’s oldest orchestra”), and the National Radio Orchestral of Milano, Italy. A recent performance with the Korean symphony Orchestra in a nationally televised live concert resulted in ‘first prize’ among the ten competing orchestras. He has also received rave reviews in Bergamo, Italy, and Maraky, Venezuela, and has twice conducted in Belgium for the Festival d’Walloonie.
As a recipient of the coveted Fulbright scholarship, Olson studied with the legendary pedagogue Hans Swarovsky of the Vienna Philharmonic, and such well known conductors as Leonard Bernstein, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Georg Solti, Andre Previn and Herbert Blomstedt.
He has degrees from Northern Illinois University, Michigan State University, and his doctorate from the University of Washington. Twice the University of Missouri-Kansas city has honored him as a “Faculty Fellow.”
As an internationally recognized bassoonist, Olson has performed in Europe, Japan and the United States. He performed at the 1990 Vienna International Music Festival and has recorded for the Czechoslovakian Radio.
Olson is married to violist Victoria and has two beautiful children, Tori, who has played second bassoon with the LSO for the July 4th concerts, and recently performed as soloist with the LSO; and Chelsea who has played viola with the LSO.
Meet our Conductor Candidates
With the impending retirement of Dr. Olson, the selection committee has chosen four very strong candidates that represent high musical values as well as the ability to engage our community. We look forward to their concerts this season and the final selection of a conductor that will lay the groundwork of continuing to provide quality, diverse concerts and outreach programs – for another 50 years in this community.
Elliot Moore is the music director of the Detroit Medical Orchestra, the Blue Period Ensemble, and the Five Lakes Silver Band. He has a masters degree in cello performance from Lausanne Conservatory in Switzerland; a master of music in orchestral conducting from Manhattan School of Music; and a doctorate in orchestral conducting from the University of Michigan. Dr. Moore will be conducting the November 12, 2016 concert.
David Handel currently resides in the Tampa, FL area. He has a bachelor’s degree in violin and a masters degree in orchestral conducting both from the University of Michigan. His international conducting experience includes orchestras in Russia, Chile, and Bolivia, and nationally in Indiana, Kentucky, Texas, California, and New York. Mr. Handel will be conducting the January 28, 2017 concert.
David Rutherford has been the Longmont Symphony’s rehearsal and guest conductor since 2010. He is music director and conductor of the Stratus Chamber Orchestra (formerly Musica Sacra – Denver) and the Valor Symphonics Youth Orchestra in Highlands Ranch. As a string bassist, he performs regularly with orchestras along the Front Range. He can be heard weekday afternoons and Sunday mornings on Colorado Public Radio. Mr Rutherford will be conducting the February 25, 2016 concert.
Zachary Carrettin is the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Boulder Bach Festival.
Prior to moving to Colorado he was Director of Orchestral Studies at Sam Houston State University, where he directed the symphony orchestra and taught conducting to undergraduate and graduate students. He holds a master of music degree in violin performance from Rice University Shepherd School of Music and a master of music degree in orchestral conducting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has conducted professional orchestras in Europe, South America, and the United States. Mr. Carrettin will be conducting the April 8, 2017 concert.