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Robert Olson Image

Robert Olson

Professor, Director of Orchestras

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.

Olson is particularly proud of the recognition the Conservatory Orchestra and UMKC Opera Theatre performances have garnered under his leadership. The Kansas City Star has repeatedly reviewed the ensembles as performing on a professional level, describing performances as “stellar” and “electrifying.” In 2014 the orchestra received second prize in the national American Prize competiton for university-level orchestras for their performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Chen Yi’s Chinese Myth Cantatas.

In addition to the two orchestras he conducts at UMKC, he was also the music director and conductor for the Longmont Symphony (Colorado) for 34 years and was founder and artistic director of the renowned Colorado MahlerFest, having retired in May 2015 after 28 years. The festival has achieved international praise through its critically acclaimed CDs and performances. In September 2005, 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 artists and orchestras for their outstanding contributions to the music of Mahler.

For fourteen 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.

His 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.