Matt Olson

Matt Olson

Professor of Saxophone and Director of Jazz Studies

swipe to see more

Equally at home as a jazz and classical saxophonist, Conn-Selmer and D’Addario Endorsing Artist Matt Olson is Professor of Saxophone and Director of Jazz Studies at Furman. He hails from Racine, Wisconsin, and holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Illinois, and a Master of Music degree in Jazz Pedagogy and Bachelor of Music degree in Saxophone Performance from Northwestern University.

Dr. Olson’s professional work includes performances with Randy Brecker, Chris Potter, Kurt Elling, Benny Carter, Wayne Bergeron, Jeff Coffin, John Fedchock, Jason Marsalis, Byron Stripling, Ken Peplowski, Kevin Mahogany, Doc Severinsen, Ryan Keberle, Andy Martin, Wycliffe Gordon, Chris Vadala, Manhattan Transfer, Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Bernadette Peters, Lou Rawls, Michael Feinstein, Johnny Mathis, Ben Folds, Bob Newhart, Wayne Newton, the Temptations, the Four Tops, children’s entertainer Shari Lewis, the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. His performances have taken him to the Montreal Jazz Festival, Carnegie Hall, and Chicago’s Jazz Showcase and Orchestra Hall.

Olson is a founding member and co-leader of the Unhinged Sextet, a collaborative jazz sextet dedicated to the recording of original compositions. The group features educators from a number of key music schools throughout the United States. Unhinged’s two recordings on OA2 Records, Clarity (2015) and Don’t Blink (2017), have received worldwide radio airplay and numerous positive reviews. Olson’s self-produced debut jazz recording, Vortex, was released in 2006, and his latest recording, an organ trio project entitled 789 Miles, was released on OA2 Records in June 2019.  He has been a featured guest artist at Northwestern University, Arizona State University, the University of Chicago, the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, the University of Idaho, and high schools throughout the United States. He has published articles in both Downbeat magazine and The Saxophone Symposium, and eJazzlines publishes Matt's original compositions for large jazz ensemble.

Olson is active nationally as a clinician and adjudicator. He has presented clinics at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, the Jazz Education Network Conference, and the South Carolina Music Educators Association conference. He holds memberships in a variety of professional music societies including the North American Saxophone Alliance, Jazz Education Network, National Association for Music Education, BMI, Pi Kappa Lambda, and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. ​​


  • B.M,  in Saxophone Performance, Northwestern University
  • M.M, in Jazz Pedagogy, Northwestern University
  • Ph.D,  in Saxophone Performance, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


I seek to compose, arrange, and record jazz music of all kinds. I am especially influenced by the jazz music of the 1950s and 1960s, including the music of John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and many others. I also seek to discover new ways to teach the saxophone and jazz improvisation to my students.