10 Questions With Darin Olson, Director of Athletic Bands
Darin Olson, D.M.A., is the new director of Athletic Bands at Kent State University. He leads the Marching Golden Flashes, Flasher Brass Pep Band, Kent Symphony Band and University Band. Olson is currently an active member of College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) and the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). Prior to Olson’s hiring, he served as the assistant director of bands at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW).
Learn more about Olson and his plans for his future at Kent State as he answers these 10 questions.
Q. What drew you to Kent State and this program?
A. Kent State University has a wonderful reputation as an institution. I was drawn to the athletic band program in particular because of the impact these musical ensembles have on the student experience and the campus community as whole. With the launch of the Marching Golden Flash award, a $1,000 scholarship for members of the marching band, it is apparent that the university is committed to providing a first-class experience for our students. I see tremendous potential for growth within the athletic band program with this level of support.
Q. What is something you would like the people of Kent State to know about you and your passion for music?
A. I absolutely love teaching and my passion is inspiring students to be life-long learners through musical activities. Music is something that everyone can relate to and there are always opportunities to be involved, no matter your age or skill level.
Q. What is your biggest passion related to music? A type of music, a specific piece, something about the performance?
A. My biggest passion related to music is non-verbal communication. It amazes me what can be accomplished in musical rehearsal and performance that is never discussed. Whether it’s aurally by the way performers react and adjust to each other or simply making eye contact after a shared musical experience.
Q. In your years of teaching and studying music, what has been the biggest accomplishment in your career?
A. Being selected to lead the athletic band program at Kent State is one of my biggest and most recent accomplishments; however, the biggest and most rewarding accomplishment is seeing students succeed by using the skills they develop in musical activities. This is not limited to the audience response they receive after a great performance. I have been fortunate to see former students get accepted into elite music programs, medical schools, law schools, begin careers in the teaching profession and the list goes on.
Q. Now that you are the director of Athletic Bands for Kent State, what are some plans you have for the future of this program?
A. In the immediate future, I am focusing on growing the program and providing the best experience for the students in the athletic band program. I have ideas for unique performance opportunities in the future, but those are on hold until after the pandemic. Overall, I hope to integrate the athletic band program into as many campus activities as possible and be the most visible, respected, goodwill ambassador for Kent State.
Q. What is your favorite type of music? To listen to and to teach?
A. The beauty of having a career teaching music is that I don’t have a favorite! In addition to directing the athletic bands, I also conduct two concert ensembles within the Glauser School of Music. At any point, you can find me listening to classical, pop, rock, hip-hop, it just depends on the day!
Q. Anything sports fans of Kent State can look forward to hearing from the bands?
A. A goal of mine in designing shows and programming music for athletic events is to have a diverse selection of artists and genres. Some new material we have been working on celebrates a few “Queens of Pop.” These two selections include material from Adele, Lizzo, Beyoncé, Madonna and Lady Gaga. If that doesn’t suit your musical taste, we will have other selections ranging from classic rock to hip-hop and everything in between.
Q. Any new changes we’ll notice when we see your students this year, as you work to keep them safe and healthy during?
A. The health and safety of students is our number one priority, and the pandemic has altered many aspects of our normal operating procedures. Students are wearing masks and placing two layers of bell covers on wind instruments. We will also be wearing an alternate uniform for any performances, and our performance configuration will look different due to physical distancing.
Q. What are you most looking forward to in this new position at Kent State
A. I am looking forward to continuing to work with this dedicated group of students. While the fall football season was recently reinstated, our rehearsals began with no performances on the calendar. The students have come to each rehearsal with great attitudes and a mindset to constantly improve. Work ethic and attitude cannot be taught, they are individual choices. Having the opportunity to work with this group of students is a privilege that I don’t take lightly and this group of individuals is setting the tone for the future of the program.
Q. What is your favorite thing about your career?
A. I am very fortunate to have a career doing what I love. I get to teach and make music and I couldn’t imagine a career without those two things!