Jazz, Dance and the Celebration of an Era

The 2018–2019 Conservatory Artist Series rounds out with two time-honored performances, as well as a celebration of Robert Olson’s distinguished 50-year career.

On Thursday, May 2, in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, the Conservatory and special guests will come together in celebration of Dr. Robert Olson’s career, spanning five decades, and his contributions to the UMKC Conservatory. The performance includes Wagner’s The Ring Without Words as well as Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Chôros No. 10, “Rasga o coração” for chorus and orchestra. Villa-Lobos, who has said, “I learned music from a bird in the jungles of Brazil, not from academies,” is one of South America’s most famous composers. We are honored to have University of Missouri-Columbia’s University Singers join the Conservatory Choirs and Orchestra for this performance of Villa-Lobos. The winner of this year’s Chancellor’s Concerto Competition will also perform with the orchestra.

Dr. Robert Olson earned degrees from Northern Illinois, Michigan State and the University of Washington, and had further study at the Vienna Hochschule für Musik as a recipient of the coveted Fulbright Scholarship. He served on the faculties of Nebraska Wesleyan University and the University of Colorado before joining the UMKC faculty in 1990. In addition to his time at UMKC, Olson served as the music director for the Longmont Symphony in Colorado for 34 years and was founder and artistic director of the renowned Colorado MahlerFest, retiring in May 2015 after 28 years. The festival has achieved international praise through its critically acclaimed CDs and performances.

In September 2005, Dr. Olson shared the stage with the New York Philharmonic as recipient of the coveted Mahler Gold Medal, a rarely bestowed honor presented by the International Gustav Mahler Society in Vienna to the world’s most prestigious artist and orchestras for their outstanding contributions to the music of Mahler.

For 14 years, Olson was conductor for the Kansas City Ballet, conducting more than 600 performances for the company with the Kansas City and St. Louis Symphonies.

Dr. Olson’s performances were regularly broadcast on Colorado National Public Radio and he has been featured in The New York Times. His frequent guest conducting has taken him to China, Europe, South America, and to various orchestras in the United States and abroad, including the National Symphony of China, the Korean Symphony Orchestra, the Polish National Radio Orchestra, the German Chamber Orchestra and the Miami Ballet. He has recorded for CRS, Empire and Naxos records.

Throughout his time at the Conservatory, Dr. Olson has been music director and conductor of the Conservatory Orchestra and Conservatory Chamber Orchestra, as well as conducted masterworks, operas and world premieres. In addition, Olson has trained numerous orchestral conducting students who have gone on to have successful careers with symphonies, in public education, and at colleges and universities around the world.

UMKC Jazz Night returns to the Folly Theater April 18. This exciting tradition brings together a variety of jazz ensembles from the Conservatory, from our two big bands, led by Bobby Watson and Mitch Butler, to our smaller groups, such as the World Percussion Ensemble and the Jazz Bass Ensemble. The concert is a “don’t miss” for any KC jazz fan!

The following week, our Spring Dance will be in White Recital Hall on the UMKC campus. Performances are Thursday, April 25, through Saturday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m., with a free and informal matinee performance April 27 at 2:30 p.m. The dance faculty combine their creative choreography with our talented dance students and work with Conservatory musicians to create innovative performances. This performance includes a collaboration between jazz faculty Bobby Watson and Cleo Parker Robinson, founder and artistic director of Denver’s Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, and choreography by Kevin Iega Jeff, who was on campus working with Conservatory dancers in November 2018.

Tickets to all Conservatory events can be found on the Central Ticket Office website, umkc.edu/cto, by calling 816-235-6222 or visiting the Central Ticket Office box office during business hours in the James C. Olson Performing Arts Center. Be sure to check out all of our exciting Conservatory events on our website, conservatory.umkc.edu!

–Jessica Riggins

About The Author: Contributing Writer


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