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Memorial service scheduled for retired music professor

Robert Olson

Robert Olson

Robert W. Olson, professor emeritus of music, died Friday, March 9. He was 85.

A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, March 17, at 2 p.m., at the Unitarian Universalist Church, located at 121 9th St. S., Fargo. Arrangements are made by Washburn – McReavy Funeral Chapel in Minneapolis.

Olson joined NDSU in 1967 to be the new principal voice teacher and to direct the department’s new Opera Workshop. He was a noted vocal pedagogue and specialist in vocal literature and vocal health for singers. He performed faculty recitals each year until his retirement in 1994.

Olson earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and was awarded a fellowship to the University of Illinois where he earned his doctorate in music in 1974. He trained at the Conservatory of Music in Vienna, Austria.  He also studied with Oren Brown of Julliard. 

He loved to perform and sang with the Duluth Symphony, the Omaha Civic Opera, Milwaukee Skylight Opera and the FM Civic Opera, to name a few. He also was guest soloist with the Vienna Boys’ Choir.

Teaching was his true passion and he taught voice for more than 40 years at several institutions, including the Bergen Teaching College in Bergen, Norway, the University of North Dakota, Minnesota State University, Moorhead, Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa, and NDSU, where he served as department head for two years. He did extensive work in vocal therapy at the Voice Institute in Fargo, of which he was a founding member. He loved his work and his students and they loved him in return.

“I always regarded Bob as a mentor who had built and maintained a successful voice department at NDSU,” said Robert Jones, NDSU voice professor. “I have always respected his work as a voice professional, and when I came to NDSU in 1995, I aspired to carry on his legacy. His teaching excellence lives on through the careers of many of his students. Bob was an inspiration to all in the vocal/choral profession who knew him. He will indeed be missed.”   

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North Dakota State University
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