Bob Olsen has been an instrumental part of Fremont’s musical heritage for decades.
His dad, Walter, taught instrumental music at Fremont Public Schools for 38 years.
Bob performed with various bands, playing for radio shows in New York City and Chicago. Then — after his dad retired — Bob taught instrumental music at FPS for 35 years.
Now, for the last four years, Olsen has taught instrumental music to youth at the Masonic Home-Eastern Star Home for Children in Fremont.
This month, Olsen is inviting area residents to help him celebrate his 90th birthday – with a party and concert starting at 7 p.m. March 17 at Fremont Opera House, 541 N. Broad St. A variety of musicians will take part in the event. The cost is $15 per ticket.
The concert will feature a jazz band and top performers coming from across the state. Together, they’ll perform jazz favorites by legendary musicians Duke Ellington and Count Basie. They’ll play traditional Dixieland tunes and — in light of St. Patrick’s Day — will play the traditional Irish song, “Danny Boy.”
“We’ll feature top soloists on their instruments,” Olsen said.
Those musicians include Norman Sodomka, a top trumpet player from Grand Island. Sodomka also said he is bringing his grandchildren: Ryan, who plays trombone, and Kylee, who plays the trumpet.
Jazz singer Jerrine Racek, originally from the Morse Bluff area, will perform.
“Jerrine is a top jazz vocalist,” Olsen said. “She’s sung in jazz festivals, both in our country and overseas.”
Olsen said he won’t take proceeds for himself. Whatever is received at the door, Olsen said he divides proceeds among the musicians.
He hopes people attend the event.
“It would be a nice way to start my 90th birthday,” Olsen said.
Lee Meyer, an opera house board member, encourages the public to attend.
“He’s been active in and around the community all these years and he’s turning 90 and having a lot of his well-known, wonderful musicians come and play with him for this birthday party,” she said. “I think anybody who comes is going to really enjoy the musicianship and I also think it’s to show respect to him for all he’s done for the community and the students.”
Meyer noted that Olsen had a party last year at the opera house.
“The music was really fantastic,” she said. “I think it will be even better this year. It will be something to hear and see.”
Tickets are available online at http://fremontoperahouse.org or at Sampter’s, 517 N. Main St., or by calling 402-720-2332.