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 University in Greenville, South Carolina. 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. Matt’s teachers have included Frederick Hemke, Debra Richtmeyer, Mike Kocour, Don Owens, Paul Bro, Ron Bridgewater, Tom Wirtel, Thomas Matta, and Jonathan Helton.

Matt’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.

Matt 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. Matt’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.

Matt has been part of commissions that resulted in new works for the saxophone by composers Frank Ticheli, John FitzRogers, Christopher Dobrian, Don Owens, and Roscoe Mitchell. He has presented performances and master classes at numerous national and regional conferences of the North American Saxophone Alliance, World Saxophone Congress, and the United States Navy International Saxophone Symposium. He has also 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.

Matt 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 was previously the instructor of saxophone for the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities and a summer instructor for the National High School Music Institute at Northwestern University. He also conducted one of two 2005 South Carolina Band Directors Association All-State Jazz Ensembles. 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.

Name Title Description


Jazz Ensemble


Jazz Combo


Saxophone Quartet


Fundamentals of Jazz Improvisa

Focus on the techniques and performance practice of jazz improvisation. Includes practical application of melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, and formal elements of the aural tradition of jazz.


Applied Jazz Improvisation

Continuation of topics from MUS-350. Individualized instruction, modeled after traditional one-on-one applied music study, with focus on more advanced applications of the melodic, harmonic, formal and textural elements of solo improvisation. May be repeated for credit.


Senior Project

Capstone requirement of music theory and/or composition degree programs. Synthesis and culmination of undergraduate music study, especially as it relates to the area of specialty.


Literature of the Instrument

Survey of the musical literature of a particular performance area. Students (typically performance majors) channel their research and study toward their own performance specialty and survey the general body of compositions written for that medium


The Music of John Coltrane

Saxophonist John Coltrane was a titanic figure in jazz history whose career simultaneously featured a quest for both musical discovery and spiritual truth. Students will study Coltrane's life and music, and will analyze a number of Coltrane's seminal compositions and improvised solos.


Jazz Performance Methods

Designed to prepare instrumental music education majors to teach jazz at the secondary school level, but open to any student with jazz experience. Focuses on jazz history, theory, improvisation, rhythm section techniques, rehearsal techniques, and jazz ensemble literature.

I work hard to ensure musical diversity in my saxophone studio. Students are free to study classical music, jazz, or a combination of the two. I encourage my students to take ownership of their playing and to create their own solutions to the challenges that they encounter.

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Northwestern University
Northwestern University
Training Under
Debra Richtmeyer
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Frederick Hemke, Mike Kocour, Don Owens, Paul Bro and Jonathan Helton
Northwestern University

Connect with Admission

Furman is one of the nation's premier liberal arts and sciences universities. We offer our students The Furman Advantage—an over-arching approach to education that promises every student a four-year personalized pathway, a team of advisors and mentors, and the opportunity for an engaged learning experience that is tracked and integrated with the students' academic and professional goals.

Want more information about the admission process at Furman?

Contact us

Once you see our campus, making the right college decision will be so much easier.

Plan a visit

Undergraduate Evening Studies provides adults the opportunity to receive an education from one of the premier liberal arts universities in the nation.

Whether you are starting or continuing your education, or have been away from the classroom for a few months or several years, our program provides many services to assist you with accomplishing your educational and professional goals.

Apply now

Our graduate studies program is designed for the professional educator.

We know the challenges teachers and administrators face every day, and we are committed to helping you become a leader within your school system or district.

Apply now
  • Furman University