Utah State University’s nationally-recognized piano study program, Youth Conservatory, has a new director with the naming of well-known composer, author and music educator Kevin Olson. Olson grew up in Salt Lake City and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at BYU. He joins USU after a 13-year teaching career at Elmhurst College near Chicago. “It was a tough decision,” said Olson. “I was a full professor at Elmhurst. I had a really comfortable position there. We were happy in the Chicago area. “But there was an aspect about this position at Utah State that I thought was interesting and that was getting me more into piano teaching. I’ve always been a piano teacher since I was 15 but at a small school like Elmhurst I wasn’t doing a lot of piano teaching. I wasn’t teaching piano teaching, I was teaching things like theory and history.” He said what won him over was the opportunity to direct the Youth Conservatory. Olson does a lot of educational piano writing and he said the possibilities of incorporating all of that into his career was exciting. His involvement with USU’s Youth Conservatory means teaching pre-university students but also teaching teachers. “Most of the faculty in the conservatory is the piano pedagogy and performance majors at USU. So for the younger students there is an opportunity to not only have private lessons with college-age teachers and also university faculty, but also there are group classes where the kids get together and there’s that social aspect.” He said it is a unique program and that’s why it’s been recognized nationally. Olsen said when he interviewed for the position he used the analogy of being handed the keys of a nice sports car that runs very well right now. “I don’t want to make too many changes the first year but I do have some ideas about putting a little bit more of a face on the program, doing community outreach, building more name recognition and letting people know more about it in the area. “The big event we do every year is a monster concert where more than 100 kids get up on the stage and, believe it or not, play on 30 or 40 pianos all at once. It’s quite an event.” He said registration for the conservatory happens on the evenings of both Aug. 17 and Aug. 31. “Both of those evenings we’ll be out there in the atrium close to the fine arts center with information sessions and answering questions anyone has.”
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