Lennart O. Olson

1922 -

Lennart Olson, a woodwind specialist, taught at three academies and two Adventist schools of higher education during his career. Primarily a clarinetist, he was a frequent soloist and known for the small woodwind ensembles he either led or played in.

Olson was born in Stockholm, Sweden, where his parents, who were U.S. citizens, were serving as missionaries. When he and his siblings were growing up, the family regularly traveled between Sweden and the United States. By the time Lennart was ten, his father had become dean of boys at Pisgah Institute, later Mount Pisgah Academy, a Seventh-day Adventist school in North Carolina.

His mother was a talented musician and a gifted pianist. Although he took piano lessons, his real interest was in the clarinet, which he started at age ten, while living in North Carolina.

I studied with a teacher in nearby Asheville who was always telling me that I was flat and to "bite harder, bite harder." It was not the best advice and led to habits I later had to break. I had a Bundy clarinet. Later, I told myself, "I've got to get rid of that old clarinet and get a good modern one." I got a Penzel Mueller clarinet. I eventually regretted having sold the Bundy, because it played better than anything I owned later.

He graduated from the academy in 1942 and was immediately drafted into the army, where he served in Saipan during the final years of World War II. When discharged from the services in 1946, he entered Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University, as a music major, with clarinet as his performance area. While there he met and married Beverly Wykoff, an organist majoring in music.

While still a student, he became known for his virtuoso-level clarinet playing. After completing a B.A. in 1950, he enrolled at Vandercook College of Music in Chicago, completing an M.Mus. in 1952. At Vandercook he also became an adept player on other band instruments.

Olson's first teaching position was at Loma Linda Academy in California, where he taught for one year before accepting a position as band director at Adelphian Academy in Michigan. Seven years later, in 1960, he returned to California to teach instruments and direct the band at Mountain View Academy.

The following year, Olson became band director at Atlantic Union College in Massachusetts, a position he held until 1969, when he accepted an invitation to teach woodwinds at Andrews University. He would teach at AU until his retirement in 1987, when he moved to Southern California.

Throughout his career, Olson played numerous solos and, on occasion, sang. His greatest pleasure, however, was working with and playing with small instrumental groups, such as woodwind quintets; clarinet trios, quartets, and choirs; and saxophone ensembles. He arranged a number of smaller works for these groups and in his retirement years has continued to play in small ensembles.


Sources: Interview, 2007; Richard E. Green, “Olson’s Musical Collage,” Andrews University Focus, unknown issue, 1987; personal knowledge.