Tag Archives: Music Department

November 23rd: The Prizewinners Pt. 2

23 Nov

Portland State Music: 30 for the 30th

Top: Brian Ward, Jason Weaver, Nick Kahl, Lars Campbell, Joe Gacioch
Bottom: Mark Hutchinson, Ken Ollis, Charley Gray

Putting Music Forward

In the spring of 2000, the Portland State University jazz ensemble traveled to the Reno Jazz Festival. The student combo that year took first prize in the college division.

In the ensuing twelve years the group’s seven musicians have carved distinctive paths. Some have remained in music, others have pursued different directions.  For each,  however music has been a formative experience, and an early indicator of the excellence that they have achieved.

Jason Weaver is the brand new principal at Hoover Elementary School in the Salem, OR.Hoover Elementary has the highest rate of poverty of any school in the district – 95%.  So it is just the kind of place you would expect to find someone who wants to make a difference.

Ken Ollis is a performer, composer and educator who combines the life of a professional musician with a relentless quest for his own unique musical path.


Putting Skills to Work

Name: Jason Weaver

Instrument: trumpet

Student of David Bamonte, Charley Gray

B.M. 2003, M.Ed. 2004 Portland State University

Jason Weaver is very clear about the role of music in his life. “Without music I don’t think I would have gone to college, or even made it through high school,” he states.  At Portland State, Jason studied and performed both  classical and jazz, receiving his B.M. in 2003.  But despite being a trumpet performance major, it seems he was always compelled by teaching.  “I was always teaching,”he remembers.  “Summer music camps in Hood River, or at Self-Enhancement Inc. (a Portland after school program).  As part of his PSU Senior Capstone he served as a counselor at Camp Kiwanis- a summer camp for children with disabilities.

Being a music educator however, wasn’t quite the right fit. “I realized that I wanted to play a different role in the lives of kids,” he says.  That role took him into the classroom.   After completing his Bachelors in Music, Jason entered PSU’s Graduate Teacher Education Program, where he received an Elementary Education certification and landed his first teaching position at Kelly Elementary school in Portland. That experience  provided a wake-up call about the demands of classroom teaching. “Once I realized how much time it took to teach, I stopped playing gigs,” he says. “I didn’t’ have the time to practice each day, or even to warmup.”

A round of layoffs after his first year found him moving to Sherwood, OR, where he continued in the classroom.  It was at a subsequent position in the Salem-Keizer district, where the idea of being a school administrator came up.  “Some people started suggesting that I might do well in administration,” Jason says.

So he returned to PSU, where he received his Administration License from the School of Education in 2008.   A year serving as an Instructional Coach, providing professional development for teachers led to his first appointment as principal of Englewood Elementary School in Salem from 2010-2012.

In the fall of 2012 he was offered the position at Hoover Elementary. “This is a game-changer for me,” Jason says.  “We are providing a community for these kids.  We feed them breakfast, lunch, and a snack before they leave. They face enormous challenges.  But they are just kids.”


What Has Your PSU Music Experience Meant to You?

“PSU taught me about service to the community, goal setting, and leadership; skills that transfer to life beyond college and support personal and professional growth.  I am grateful for the opportunities and support the PSU music department provided me towards my growth and development as an educator.”


Putting Skills to Work

Name: Ken Ollis

Instrument: drums

Student of Alan Jones, Charley Gray, Darrell Grant, Bonnie Miksch

B.M.2000, M.M. 2003 Portland State University

In a 2008 Featured Musician piece in the Jazz Society of Oregon magazine, Rita Rega noted “Portland is exploding with talented young players and Ken Ollis is one of the most sought-after time-keepers. From funk to free, Ollis can pilot you there.”

For more than a decade Ken has been piloting musical ensembles and guiding students throughout the region.  He has performed extensively throughout the US, Canada, and Europe, and has played with a variety of musicians including: Kenny Werner, Ingrid Jensen, Julian Priester, The Drifters, Bud Shank, John Stowell, John Gross, Dan Balmer, Chata Addy, Rob Blakeslee, Rich Halley, Glen Moore, and many others.
Most recently, his projects have included work with Dominique Eade, Heather Masse (from The Wailin’ Jennys), Aoife O’Donovan (from Crooked Still), Pepe and The Bottle Blondes, Paxselin Quartet, and several other groups. Ken also regularly performs in collaboration with painters, poets, dancers, and cinematographers. His compositions are featured in the repertoire of the Paxselin Quartet, the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble, PDX Ensemble, The Chamber of Commerce, and in his own groups.
Ken is Adjunct Professor of drumset at Portland State University and George Fox University.  His debut CD Confluence  features his original compositions performed skillfully by a five-piece ensemble that includes fellow PSU alums David Fleschner, and Lars Campbell.  His current projects include the Demolition Duo with flutist John Savage, and Senses Sharpened with Savage and pianist Dan Gaynor. ________________________________________________________________________________

What Has Your PSU Music Experience Meant to You?

“PSU taught me how to filter and process information in order to apply it in a creative context.  As an artist, it is critically important to find relevant information (musical or otherwise), understand how I can use it in my musical endeavors, and apply it bravely.  Stagnation comes quickly when this flow of ideas is slowed.  My education created the bridge between liking a concept (heard on recording, or at a concert, or read in a book), and understanding that concept deeply enough to take it to the next step.  Individual artistic growth depends hugely upon a smooth transition from information to application, whether it’s on a gig navigating my way through a tune I’ve never heard before, or coming up with an idea for a new composition.  In a nutshell, PSU taught me how to learn.”


November 21st: The Dramatic Tenor

21 Nov

Portland State Music: 30 for the 30th

Name: John Short

Instrument: voice

Student of David Jimerson

B.M Student PSU Vocal Program 1983-1986

Portland State University

Putting Music Forward

Q: How good a singer is John Short?

He received 3 out of the 4 highest judges scores ever awarded in the entire history of The Richard Tauber International Vocal Competition for Tenors.”

Celebrated basso and noted author Jerome Hines declared “This is one of the few dramatic tenor voices I’ve ever heard that can be mentioned with the great ones of operatic history.”

Actor Tony Randall, a noted opera connoisseur, said ”Mr. Short, you are the rarest thing in all of opera: a tall, handsome dramatic tenor with a remarkably powerful AND beautiful sound. Blood and thunder mixed with velvet. The physical and emotional impact of your voice is simply staggering. Your sound is quite warm and unique to my ears. The fact that you are also a terrific, compelling actor with a magnetic stage presence is incredibly exciting, intoxicating in fact. It was a rare pleasure to hear AND see you, a privilege to experience your total performance.”

A: He’s really good!


Putting Skills to Work

John Short specializes in dramatic and heroic tenor roles requiring a dynamic fusion of voice and stage acumen that are tailor-made for his “rare ability” to “tastefully perform and penetrate the core of the character” with “acting and singing that must be considered near the ideal”.  Don Jose in Carmen, Canio in Pagliacci, Siegmund in Die Walkure, Samson in Samson et Dalila, Florestan in Fidelio, and the title role of Otello are Mr. Short’s primary roles.

A native of Tillamook, Oregon. John attended Portland State on a vocal scholarship.  While at PSU, he was a frequent performer with with the Chamber Choir and Opera Workshop. Upon graduating, John appeared with several Northwest Opera companies including the Portland Opera, Oregon Coast Light Opera, Northwest Repertory Company, Northwest Opera Society and as solo recitalist for the Portland Opera Guild’s Young Artists concert series.

John made his Lincoln Center debut in a concert of American operetta with the Little Orchestra Society at Alice Tully Hall in 1997.  That same season he sang his first Florestan in Fidelio with the Connecticut Grand Opera and appeared as Canio during the spring tour of Opera Northeast’s production of I Pagliacci. He followed that with the rare feat of appearing as both Turiddu and Canio in the same evening with New York Verismo Opera in gala performances of Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci and later performed Mario Cavaradossi in Tosca with Opera New York.

In the spring of the same year, John was presented by The New York Wagner Society in his first Siegmund in Act I of Die Walkure. The following season John appeared as Don Jose in Carmen for Opera Idaho, and later made his debut on last minute notice with the Istanbul State Opera in the same role.  He  returned to Lincoln Center in the fall of 1998 for his debut with the American Symphony Orchestra as Isaiah in Weill’s The Eternal Road at Avery Fisher Hall.

Other New York concerts  include performances with The New York Richard Wagner Society, the inaugural concert for The Hugo Wolf Society, The Bell’ Arte Opera Theatre and the Richard Tauber Institute for the Vocal Arts. He has been guest soloist for the Metropolitan Opera Club’s prestigious Annual Spring Banquet

John has performed Don Jose in Carmen and Enzo in La Gioconda with Opera New York, as well as Lucia di Lammermoor with The New Jersey State Opera as a winner in their International Vocal Competition.  He was the recipient of the first James McCracken Memorial Award for American Tenors.  He also has an extensive list of performances of leading roles in Musical Theatre and Operetta ranging from: Billy Bigelow in Carousel, Curly in Oklahoma, to Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Anthony in Sweeney Todd.  He teaches at the New York Foundation for the Arts Wagner Theater Program.


What Has Your PSU Music Experience Meant to You?

” What does PSU still mean to me? A great MANY things that are indeed, Priceless…”

To read more of John Short’s thoughts on his PSU experience- see tomorrow’s post