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Dale A. Olsen Collection

Collection Overview

  • 481 audio reels
  • 231 audio cassettes
  • 156 Hi8 videos
  • 55 records
  • 26 video reels
  • 5 CD and DAT recordings


Dale A. Olsen was born in 1941 in Albert Lea, Minnesota. He received both a Bachelor’s degree in 1964 and Master’s degree in 1966 from the University of Minnesota, where he studied Historical Musicology and Flute Performance, and received his Doctorate degree in 1973 from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Between his Master’s and Doctoral degrees, Dr. Olsen lived with his wife, Diane, as a Peace Corps volunteer in Santiago, Chile where he served as principal flutist of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Chile. Since then he has lived, worked, and conducted research in South America as a National Endowment for the Humanities awardee, a Fulbright scholar, a Florida State University Developing Scholar, and a Committee on Faculty Research Support awardee. Dr. Olsen also received grants to conduct research in American and European museums, Italy, China, Korea, Tonga (South Pacific), Japan, Ireland, Vietnam, Thailand, and Panama. In 2005-06 he was awarded a Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship to finish a book, Popular Music of Vietnam: The Politics of Remembering, The Economics of Forgetting. Dr. Olsen began teaching at the Florida State University School of Music in 1973, became a Distinguished Research Professor in 2001, and retired in 2008 as Professor Emeritus.

The Dale A. Olsen Collection consists of over 800 audio and visual items that span Dr. Olsen’s career as a researcher and educator from 1965 to 2007. They contain a variety of music from Japan, China, Indonesia, Persia, Africa, Ireland, South America, the Caribbean, and North America. While most of the recordings chronicle Dr. Olsen’s extensive fieldwork in South America with Japanese immigrants and Warao Indians, other recordings include concerts by FSU world music ensembles, student and guest lectures, other special events and ceremonies, private gatherings at home, and even a handful of commercial recordings. About 80 of the reel-to-reel recordings were actually used as audio examples for Olsen’s study of the connection of indigenous tribes to their environment, Music of the Warao of Venezuela: Song People of the Rain Forest, winner of the 1997 Alan P. Merriam Prize for “Most Outstanding Book in Ethnomusicology.”

Not only was Dr. Olsen a devoted researcher, he was also an avid performer on several of the recordings in the collection. His many talents can be heard on a range of instruments including the Japanese shakuhachi (for which he received a shihan diploma), the Irish transverse flute, the English recorder, and a long list of indigenous South American instruments.

Dr. Olsen has been published over one hundred times, including seven books; he edited Music of Latin America; co-edited volume of the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music with Dan Sheehy; and was the recording review editor for Ethnomusicology. A number of his articles have appeared in the Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society, Asian Music Journal, Ethnomusicology, Latin American Music Review, College Music Symposium, Journal of Latin American Lore, Worlds of Music, and elsewhere.

For more information, please contact our Special Collections staff.