Hometown: Pennington, NJ Member: 1986
Eric Olson’s brother starting playing the trumpet when Eric was eight. That led Eric to the recorder and two years later to the oboe.
What do you want patrons of the Symphony to know about you?
Besides practicing several hours each week outside of rehearsals, I spend a minimum of 10 hours a week making oboe reeds. Every season I make over 300 reeds so that I can meet the demands required by the music. Oboe reeds often only last one performance, and only 1/3 of the reeds I make ever make it to Jacoby Hall. The best of those reeds are used in concerts.
Do you have any pre-concert rituals or routines?
Adjusting my reeds prior to the concert because they change frequently with temperature and humidity changes. Often the climate onstage is significantly different at the concert from what it was during rehearsal, so the adjustments must be a few minutes prior to the start of the concert and sometimes during intermission.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a professional musician?
Probably a scientist. My father has a Doctorate in Chemistry and still does research at the age of 80. My mother also has a Chemistry degree, and my brother has Doctorate in theoretical physics from the University of Chicago.
What teacher, mentor or other influencer inspired you the most?
I have to name two teachers. My first major teacher was Louis Rosenblatt (English hornist for the Philadelphia Orchestra for more than three decades), who taught me all about the fundamentals of musical phrasing and basic concepts of oboe during my last year and a half of high school. My other major teacher was Ray Still (Principal oboist of the Chicago Symphony for 40 years) who I studied with for four years at Northwestern University. He taught me how to play with a singing relaxed sound, playing in different styles and what was required to play a principal role in an orchestra.
What do you do in your spare time?
What’s that? In my spare moments, I sing with my church choir and take part in other activities at my church. Also during my spare time, my wife and I co-direct the San Marco Chamber Music Society (SMCMS) which presents five free programs each season to the local community. Part of the ensemble participated in a tour of Oxford England in June of 2016. The SMCMS also includes as its opening concert a benefit concert for JDRF (the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), and to date has raised more than $20,000 for that cause.
What has been your favorite moment on stage?
Too many to name. Anytime my reeds are working ok and the orchestra is making good music is a favorite moment.
Do you have pets?
We have a cat named Eleanor who after 6 ½ years is still adjusting to the sound of the oboe and viola.
Who is your favorite composer?
It’s difficult to name more than one. Mozart has to be at or near the top. I enjoy most music that has a clarity of purpose to it and has moments of beauty.
Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University