Ellis Olson, now retired and living in Redlands, California, began his career at Wisconsin Academy, where he directed the instrumental music program from 1955 to 1968. In 1970, following a graduate study leave from WA, he accepted a position at Union College, where he taught brass, conducted brass ensembles and orchestra, and assisted with the band until 1979. At that time he moved to Redlands, California, and entered the field of nursing in which he worked, using music therapy, until his retirement. During that time he also taught private lessons and did contract teaching at La Sierra University.
Olson was born in Stockholm, Sweden, while his parents were serving there as missionaries. In the late 1930's, he began lessons on the trumpet, studying for free with a musician who was working under the auspices of the Federal Music Project, a federal program established during the Great Depression to help put musicians back to work. He entered Union College as both a nursing and music student in 1943, but was drafted to serve in the army.
Following his discharge in 1947, he enrolled at Emmanuel Missionary College (now Andrews University) for two years. In 1949 he transferred to UC as a music major, but completed a degree in nursing in 1955. He had taken enough hours in music, however, to nearly qualify for a degree in music and was immediately hired by Wisconsin Academy to direct the band and teach instrumental music when he graduated.
While at WA, Olson studied at Vandercook School of Music in Chicago, graduating from there with a master's degree in music education in 1961. During his study leave from WA, he completed a D.M.A at the University of Southern California. His major field of study was music education, with secondary emphases in history and literature, instrumental performance, and educational research. His dissertation was titled An Experimental Study Comparing the Effectiveness of Wind Chamber Ensemble Music Experience with Larger Wind Ensemble Experience.
An accomplished French horn player, Olson became interested in the instrument when he returned to UC as a student following the war and his stay at EMC. He eventually studied with Philip Farkas, John Barrows, Waldman Linder, and Wendell Hoss, leading horn performers and teachers of that era.
He has performed extensively as a soloist and recitalist and in numerous ensembles. While at WA he played in the symphony at Madison, Wisconsin, and later, while teaching at UC, he played for a short time in the Lincoln Symphony. He currently plays horn in the Riverside Community College and Loma Linda University Church orchestras and in the LLU Church brass choir. He also freelances in the Los Angeles area.
While young, Olson traveled extensively as his parents served as missionaries in different countries. In retirement, he and his wife, Mary (Henkelmann), have traveled widely and frequently throughout the world. In 2004 Ellis traveled to China as a member of the orchestra that accompanied the Mitzlefelt choir during its tour in that country.
Sources: Ellis Olson, Interview 2004, personal knowledge.