Matthew J. Olson leads a diverse career as a conductor, choral composer, singer, arts administrator, and music educator. He serves as Founding Artistic Director of Bach Roots Festival (formerly Oratory) – a professional ensemble specializing in the choral-orchestral works of J.S. Bach. He also serves as Director of Choral Activities at Carleton College and Assistant Conductor of the professional choir The Singers – MN Choral Artists. As recent Chorusmaster with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Star Tribune hailed that The Singers were “scrupulously prepared” by Olson in a performance of Bach’s St. John Passion described as “one of the most satisfying you could ever hope to hear.” He has guest conducted many of the region’s finest choirs including Magnum Chorum in Brahms’ Requiemand The Singers in widely acclaimed performances of Joby Talbot’s 17-part choral symphony Path of Miracles.
Matthew's studies of Bach began with Helmuth Rilling first as a chorister in the Carnegie Hall Festival Chorus and then as a conducting student at the Oregon Bach Festival. Additional studies include observations with Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Chorus in Perigueux, France, as well as doctoral studies with Kathy Romey.
As a conductor rooted in Baroque and Classical repertoire, he is also passionate about exploring the bounds between classical and popular music. Recent concerts included Sojornfeaturing music of indie-rocker composer Kjartan Sveinsson of Sigur Rosfame, performances with bluegrass band Monroe Crossing and songwriter Carrie Newcomer, and Minnesota Public Radio’s Work for Words live at the Fitzgerald Theater with Chris Koza.
As a choral composer and arranger, his works (published by Colla Voce & Santa Barbara) receive increasing performances throughout the U.S. and abroad. His first full-length cantata for choir, orchestra and vocal soloists (titled Sola Fide) premiered in October of 2017 exploring themes of social equality and justice that fueled the protestant reformation.
As a choral singer, Matthew has performed and recorded with ensembles including The St. Olaf Choir, The Carnegie Hall Festival Chorus, The Singers, Dale Warland and the Minnesota Beethoven Festival Chorale, The Minnesota Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s (NYC).
As an arts administrator, Matthew worked formerly for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra first as an intern in Development, and then as Assistant to then President, Bruce Coppock. As Managing Director of Oratory, he has led the doubling of the organization’s budget four years in a row.
He studied choral and orchestral conducting at St. Olaf College, The Oregon Bach Festival, Michigan State University, The Canford Conducting School (U.K.), and The University of Minnesota.