Gunnar Olson Senior Piano Recital


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

On Saturday, Nov. 13, an amazing pianist who has done so much for the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s music department showcased his skills and mastery over the piano in his senior recital. Gunnar Olson will be graduating at the end of the fall 2021 semester as a civil engineering major and a piano minor. He has been quite helpful during his time at UWP by being in almost every band that the school has to offer, from Jazz 1 and the Pioneer Jazz Orchestra to the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Honors Recitals. Olson is a very well-versed pianist and he showed it that Saturday night. 

The concert was a wonderful showcase on how talented Olson really is, with pieces from the Baroque era, such as Prelude and Fugue in D minor by the great Johan Sebastian Bach, to more modern pieces such as “The Pianos 12 Sides” seventh movement, “She Steals Me,” by Carter Pann. Olson started off his recital with a piece by Alex Shapiro called “Spark,” a very bright yet eerie piece with a wonderful run in the upper register with the piano being played on his right hand, while his left hand moves around, giving us interesting rhythms to interpret. It was quite a complex song to start out with, but it was a welcome one. Not only could you tell how much time he had put into learning it, but his body language showed how invested he was in his playing. As if that was not enough to show off how great of a musician he is, he came back and played almost all of the rest of his pieces by memory. Memorizing anything is impressive on its own, but being able to execute all of them with the correct dynamics, articulations and with so many emotions is a feat within itself.

A pleasant and interesting point in the recital came toward the end, where he played a piece called Petite Suite, L. 65 written by another famous composer, Claude Debussy. This piece had four movements and the twist that came to be showcased was that Olson was not alone in playing. He brought out another great pianist and vocalist, Elyse Harvanick. They performed this piece beautifully together, each player getting to shine and show their technical skills and how invested they are when it comes to performing. Olson closed out his recital with Ballade in A-flat Major, Op. 47 by another great composer, Fryderyk Chopin. 

This was a great closer to his recital as Gunnar was able to show us once again why he has participated in many bands, as well as to how much time and how much dedication he put into the piano.

 There is no doubt that Gunnar has been a strong staple when it comes to his contributions to the department. Not only has Gunnar done a lot for the Department, but he has also touched the hearts of faculty and students alike. Almost anyone will say something positive and great about Gunnar, not only as a performer but as a person as well. When asked about their thoughts about Gunnar, Allen Cordingly, Pioneer Jazz Orchestra Director and Saxophone specialist said

“Gunnar is a wonderful musician, student, and person. He is an asset that will be missed dearly however we are excited to watch his career continue to develop. He executed his senior recital with the utmost control and nuance which was inspiring to say the least. Bravo Gunnar!” 

Another staff member Dave Cooper, Jazz 1 Director and Terrific Trumpeter, had this to say about Gunnar. “It has been wonderful to have Gunnar as a student in the music department. He has contributed so much to so many! He has been a very important component in our Jazz Ensembles and Jazz Combos as well as lately he has even been helping the Applied lesson instructors by accompanying fellow students on multiple recitals and juries. Truly, there has not been someone in our department like him since I have been teaching here. He will be missed!” 

Finally, I was able to reach out to Gunnar Olson’s piano teacher, and well-decorated pianist, Dr. Kaju Lee. She had this to say about her outstanding student, “Gunnar is a fantastic student; keen, hard-working, reliable, professional, and courteous. We will miss seeing him in rehearsals, ensembles, and performances. He’s been involved in almost every ensemble that we need a pianist or keyboardist. He has accompanied so many students’ recitals and juries too.”