LOGAN — As the Logan Marching Chieftains begin the 2017 marching season, there are many new faces, and among them is that of new assistant band director, Jennifer Olis.
Daughter of two band directors and a graduate of Athens High School, Ohio University and The Ohio State University, Olis has a lifelong relationship with music education.
From third grade through high school, Olis attended Athens schools as her father, John Climer, served as the Ohio University Director of Bands for 13 years before the family moved again, this time to Wisconsin.
“My parents had a huge influence on me. I’ve been immersed in music my entire life,” Olis explained. “My mom was my middle and high school band director and my dad was my college band director. I saw first hand the difference they made in their students’ lives and I knew I wanted to do the same.”
With trombone as her instrument of choice, Olis said she played in everything she possibly could, including the concert band, marching band, jazz band, musical pit orchestra, solo and ensemble, district honor band, regional orchestra, all-state orchestra, summer music camps, and more.
“If it involved playing my trombone, I did it!” Olis laughed.
It was during one of those many ensembles experiences, playing with The Ohio State University Honor Band conducted by Director of Bands, Dr. Russel Mikkelson, that Olis realized that teaching music was what she wanted to do.
“Seeing the passion and energy he displayed and his desire to help us succeed was the moment I realized I wanted to do the same,” Olis recalled. “I was so inspired by this experience that not only did I become a band director, but I also came back to Ohio State to study with Dr. Mikkelson for my Master of Music in Wind Conducting degree.”
After graduating from Athens in 2004, Olis earned a Bachelor of Music in Music Education and a Bachelor of Music in Trombone Performance from Ohio University in 2009.
Following her graduation, she moved to Wisconsin with the rest of her family when her father took a position with the University of Wisconsin. There, she found a job as a band director for the Muskego High School in Muskego.
“We were a non-competitive band. We learned one show a season, but our primary focus was performing for football games and parades. We took our kids to one competition a season, but entered as an exhibition band, so we were not judged; we wanted the kids to get the experience of seeing what competitive bands do without competing ourselves,” Olis explained.
After teaching in Wisconsin, Olis decided to return to Ohio to study with Dr. Mikkelson while working for her Master of Music in Wind Conducting degree, which she completed this year.
“After completing my master’s degree, I knew I wanted to come back to teaching in the public schools. My husband was lucky enough to secure a teaching position in Columbus that he loves, so we were driven to stay in central Ohio,” the musician explained. “Knowing the reputation of this program created by Mr. North, Mrs. Price, and Mr. Wright, I knew joining this team would be a great experience. The high expectations, commitment to excellence and band family atmosphere make it a very desirable work place.”
Despite her extensive experience with corps-style marching, Olis gained experienced working with a military style while studying at OSU. While there, she was required to learn and teach the marching style, as well as create and rehearse drill for a pregame and halftime show.
She also taught band camps for military-style schools around Ohio and West Virginia, including Logan High School in the mid- to late 2000s.
Military-style marching bands, such as Ohio State and the Logan Marching Chieftains, typically learn multiple shows in a season with their main focus being performing for football games and parades. However, this is the first high school that Olis has worked with that follows that routine.
While working with the Logan-Hocking School District, Olis hopes to continue the tradition of
the program, but also strive for improvement. Her goal, she said, is for the students to love music, to be excited when they come to her classroom to explore what the subject has to offer, and to continue enjoying the arts after they leave.
“Jennifer is fitting right in. She is very knowledgeable, and having previous experience in a “team teaching” environment makes for a smooth transition for both the directors and students,” Pam Price, Director of Bands, shared. “I have heard nothing but positive comments from students about Mrs. Olis; they have welcomed her into our band family. Mrs. Olis brings new ideas and experiences, and we are excited for this new chapter in our Instrumental Music Department.”
“Everything has been great so far! The kids have been wonderful to work with; they are incredibly polite, well behaved, and eager to learn,” the new assistant remarked. “The parents are equally as great, always asking how they can help, bending over backwards to create a great experience for the kids and aid the directors in establishing successful program. It is very clear that the culture here is rooted in high expectations and the creation of a band family.”