A Chris Olson Project...
Christopher Olson earned a masters degree in jazz studies/performance from the University of North Texas in 1995. He holds bachelors degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in jazz studies and music education/choral emphasis. A former guitar instructor at UW-Stevens Point and the Wausau Conservatory of Music, Chris taught guitar, jazz history and improvisation, and directed jazz ensembles at UW-Marathon County and Inver Hills Community College. He currently teaches in the guitar and music theory departments at McNally/Smith College in St. Paul, and teaches guitar lessons and jazz combos at MacPhail Center for Music. During the summer Chris is an instructor at the Shell Lake Arts Center in Shell Lake, Wisconsin. Chris has shared the stage with artists such as Bob Mintzer, Louis Bellson, Terry Gibbs, Ira Sullivan, and Bobby Vinton. He has worked with Twin Cities bands led by Wain MacFarlane, Steve Millar, and Tim Mahoney, among others. He currently performs with the instrumental trio, Framework, and the quartet, Meantime, and continues to appear throughout the Midwest as a soloist and with groups of all sizes. "A Chris Olson Project" is a forum for Chris to perform with a range of other "top notch players," in various combinations, on the Black Dog stage, the Second Tuesday of each month.
a string trio that formed this summer will perform originals an interesting covers, melding jazz, classical, folk, pop, R&B, and world music
Greg Byers: Cello
Ernest Bisong: Violin
Chris Olson: Guitar
In his lifelong pursuit of music, Greg Byers has overcome countless obstacles in order to become an idiosyncratic performer, composer, educator, and producer.
Greg started playing cello at The Family Suzuki School of Rochester, NY at age 2.5. By age sixteen, he was a talented cellist, but was frustrated with the lack of personal expression he found in youth orchestras. This led Greg to explore the possibilities of the cello in a jazz context.
After beginning the undergraduate program at University of Miami, Greg wanted to officially switch his major to Studio Music & Jazz, which was initially denied because he was a cellist. Shelly Berg, the current Dean of the Frost School of Music, took over in 2007 and saw Greg’s perseverance. In the end Greg became the first person to double major in Instrumental Performance/Studio Music & Jazz on cello and bass, Summa Cum Laude.
n 2010 he appeared in The Weird World of Blowfly, a documentary about the aging Clarence Reid; this included footage from several tours in Europe where Greg played bass guitar for more than 15,000 people.
After working in the Miami music scene, Greg decided to explore opportunities in Los Angeles. LA taught the importance of viewing music from the perspective of not only the performer, but also the composer, music engineer, and business person, so he applied these skills to his debut EP Some Dark, Beautiful Morning.
Greg then decided to continue his higher learning at McNally Smith College of Music in Saint Paul, where he graduated a Master of Music Performance. Now a resident of the historic A-Mill Artist Lofts of Minneapolis, Greg maintains a busy schedule; juggling original and freelance performances, a private cello/bass studio and recording & production services.
s a performer, Greg enjoys balancing technical prowess and improvisation freedom. Hefty recording experience coupled with perfect pitch allows Greg to work directly with any musician or producer.
As a composer, he strives for melodies that reach the layman, and harmonies that challenge the stereotypes of Western popular music.
As an educator, Greg is passionate about helping students avoid the pitfalls of traditional music instruction, with the student truncated from any sort of creativity or expression. Rather, Greg works to bring out the creative potential residing in every student by integrating improvisation, theory, and ear training into his pedagogy.
As a producer, Greg endeavors to tell the stories embedded in every piece of music with clarity and precision. Greg has trained his music engineering skills while embracing the vibrant sonic palette only available in the mixing process.
Ernest Bisong is a classically trained violinist who was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. He picked up the violin at the age of nine, after a short stint with the clarinet. He has since studied with several notable string tutors and performers including Rachel Barton-Pine (U.S.A.), Randy Sabien (U.S.A.), Daria Adams (violinist, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra), Sir Godfrey Amoah (Ghana) and Thomas Kanitz (Germany). In July 2013, he became the first Nigerian to obtain Performance Diploma certification from the Associate Board of the Royal Schools of Music in London with a distinction. Ernest is also a self taught jazz musician and has performed at concerts such as the Smooth FM Luxury Concert, the Lagos Jazz Festival, and the St. Paul Jazz Festival. He has as also opened concerts for Mike Stern, Richard Bona, Marcus Johnson, Anita Baker, and Marsha Ambrosius. In 2012, he was on the Nigerian contingent to perform at the African Showcase of the SXSW in Austin, TX. In the maiden edition of Venture Career Journal Nigeria released in 2013, he was referred to as “arguably Africa’s foremost contemporary violinist.” In 2016, he performed with Sheila E during the Prince Tribute Concert held at Minnesota’s prestigious Orchestra Hall. Ernest is currently a mentor with the Mobile Jazz Project which currently uses music and the arts as a conduit for reaching inner-city youths in the Twin Cities. Ernest currently holds a masters degree from McNally Smith College of Music in violin performance and is currently completing a second masters in Education at the University of St. Thomas also in St. Paul, Minnesota. He performs locally and across the country with the Ernest Bisong Group.
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