R. Dale Olson

The 47th Annual International Trumpet Guild Conference

R. Dale Olson

Session: The Mythical Trumpet Mouthpiece: The Most Discussed, Least Understood, Element of Trumpet Performance

Over a period in excess of 70 years, R. Dale Olson has been engaged in the study, and performance of brass musical instruments.  As a scholar, Dale received his Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of North Texas and the first Master’s Degree in Trumpet Performance ever granted by the University, in 1957.  In 2009, he was named “Distinguished Alumnus” of  North Texas.  Thirty years later, in 1987, he earned a Master’s Degree in Experimental Psychology, from California State University, Fullerton. 

In High School, in Galveston, Texas, Olson studied with Everette James (Harry’s father), and, during his five year tenure at North Texas, was a student of  John James Haynie. During this era, Dale also studied the Schillinger System of Musical Composition with Grant Sharman of Los Angeles. After graduation, Olson continued to pursue his fascination with trumpet pedagogical methods, and studied with Robert Weatherly of the St. Louis Symphony, John Clyman of  MGM Studios, and Vladimir Drucker of the San Francisco and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras.

At age 25, Olson was named “Director of Research” for the firm of F.E. Olds and Son, Inc. of Fullerton, California. He oversaw the design and re-design of multiple brasses, and greatly enlarged the company library of technical writings. While at Olds, he developed methods to measure mouthpieces with an exceptionally high degree of accuracy not equaled until years later when digital technology emerged.

Over a very long span, Olson has been fortunate to have, as research partners, Renold Schilke, Dr. Robert W. Young (President of the Acoustical Society of America, 1961), William T. Cardwell, and Zig Kanstul.  In collaboration with these authorities, Olson delved deeply into the subjects of brass instrument history, acoustics, instrument design, and ergonomics.  He continued his studies of human mechanisms of performance, including intraoral air pressure and embouchure mouthpiece force.  Based upon this research, he conceived “The Equilibrium Concept of Trumpet Performance”, an abstract construct that posits “When one element changes, all others change”.  This has been the subject of two prior ITG Conference lectures by Olson, in 2006 and 2016. In 2013, Dale’s “Equilibrium Concept” was confirmed by Dr. Martin Schumacher and a team of seven neuroscientists at the University of Frieberg, Germany.   Dale’s research and career have been referenced in David Hickman’s “Trumpet Pedagogy, and “Trumpet Greats”, and Edward Tarr’s “East Meets West”.  

As a professional performer, Olson played in excess of 30,000 live performances, over a period of 20 years, for Disney Studios in California, and has performed in orchestral, jazz, and commercial genres.  Now retired from professional performance, Olson devotes much of his time to researching and writing.  His books include “Sensory Evaluation of Brass Musical Instruments” (2000), “The Haynie Legacy” (2013), and “Zig Kanstul; Last of the Great Masters” (2016).  His major work, still being written, is ‘Chronology of Innovation: United States Patents Related to the Trumpet: 1848 -2014”, a major work in multiple volumes that critiques between 800 and 1,000 patents concerning the trumpet.  Volume I (“Drainage Systems”), and Volume II (”The Trumpet Mute”), are now in print, and Volume III (“The Trumpet Mouthpiece”) is scheduled for publication in 2023. 

R. Dale Olson and his wife, Diane, a designer and real estate renovator, oscillate between residences in Orange County, California and Galveston Island, Texas.Dale maintains a collection of vintage English autos, and acts as a Concours d’Elegance Judge for Rolls-Royce and Bentley automobiles.


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