One of the truly great benefits of playing music in the Royal Hawaiian Band is the relationships and friendships we formwith our audience members. One such friendship I have enjoyed over the years is the bond I shared with Duane and Nancy Olsen of Ft. Dodge, Iowa.
If Fort Dodge, Iowa rings a bell to you band geeks, it’s because it is the home of the Karl L. King Municipal Band. Nancyplays the clarinet in the band and Duane was a euphonium player and the band’s announcer. It was to my sudden shock to learn that Duane (or “Oley” as his friends called him) had passed away this past January.
Oley was born and raised in Fort Dodge. His earliest memories were of his family attending the weekly band concerts at theCity Square and at the Oleson Park Band Shell to hear the Fort Dodge Municipal Band under the direction of Karl L. King. He began playing trombone when he entered junior high school and played throughout high school.
When he was 15, he was invited to join the Fort Dodge Municipal Band. Following 18 months playing in Army bands inKorea during the war, he returned to Iowa, rejoining the Municipal Band and attending Buena Vista College in Storm Lake, where he majored in music.
After teaching in the Pomeroy schools, he joined Mid-Bell Music in Storm Lake, and became a familiar figure to banddirectors in northwest Iowa, calling on them weekly at school. He was always willing to visit with anyone when asked about Karl King, whether it was a group of students, band directors, or as an announcer to an audience at a concert.
For 65 years, from 1947-2012, Oley played with the King Band, mostly on the Euphonium. He served as the band’s announcer for 56 years, from 1955-2011. He was chairman of the Band board and band manager for 31 years, from 1977-2008. Oley retired from the King Band at the start of the 2012 summer season. The band presented him with a plaque last
July, commemorating his significant contributions to the Band’s history and traditions, and his dedication to promoting the legacy of Karl King.Significant accomplishments during his tenure with the King Band included the first commercially available recordings ofthe Band; the publication of the book “Hawkeye Glory”, which was written by former band member Tom Hatton, and toldthe history of the Fort Dodge bands; the development of the band’s website; and the construction of the Karl King statue in Fort Dodge
Oley was also instrumental in organizing the concert in 1991 to mark the 100th anniversary of Karl King’s birth; the band’s appearance for two weeks at the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival in Washington D.C. in 1996; and organizing the KinBand’s appearances at several state conventions, three national music conventions, and four appearances at Iowa Bandmasters Association Conferences.
The local Fort Dodge newspaper, The Messenger, stated in an editorial: “We can take consolation in the realization that helived a life he loved, while at the same time making our town richer for his presence.” R.I.P., dear friend. And our condolences to your lovely wife, Nancy Olsen.