Rod Olstad started playing the violin at an early age. He studied privately with a number of classical violin teachers and played with the Grande Prairie school orchestra, the Edmonton All City Orchestra, the Edmonton Youth Orchestra, and, as a young adult, with the U of A St. Cecilia Orchestra and the Baroque Ensemble at the University of Alberta while in the Bachelor of Music program and while completing a B.A. Special Degree in Music.
Rod's earliest fiddle influence was his Great Uncle Henry Levang who played fiddle in the Edberg region near Camrose Alberta. At the age of 10, Rod recorded a number of Henry's fiddle tunes and eventually learned all of those tunes and continues to play them to this day.
Rod has pursued an interest in the culture, history, performance and teaching of Alberta, Canadian, and various world fiddle styles for most of his life. Between 1995-98, Rod completed a major field research project documenting fiddlers of Northern Alberta. This project was sponsored by the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation and the Centre for Ethnomusicology at the University of Alberta. This archive forms the basis for a Virtual Museum of Canadian Traditional Music display about fiddling in Northern Alberta (visit The Northern Alberta Fiddle Project)
Rod's teaching career began in 1981 and, with music performance, became his full time occupation in 1988. Rod's teaching style is influenced by the Suzuki method, having completed and audited more than 10 summer Suzuki Teacher Training Workshops since the late 1980's. In 2010, Rod became a faculty member of the Edmonton Society for Talent Education. Other pedagogical influences include the Royal Conservatory of Music, with whom he completed the certificate requirements for Grade 10 violin. Various forms and styles of fiddle music, swing/jazz and improvisational music are also an integral part of his pedagogical approach.
Rod has taught at several fiddle workshops during the last 20 years including the Alberta Society of Fiddlers, the Edmonton Suzuki Summer Fiddle Workshop, the Suzuki Summer Institute in Calgary, the Northern Bluegrass Circle, the Edmonton Public Schools String Program, the Aurora (Yellowknife, NWT) Fiddle Society and the Kole Crook Fiddle Society various fiddle camps/workshops/teaching tours in Ft. Providence, Hay River, Katlodeeche, Gameti, Fort Simpson, Fort Resolution, Jean Marie River, Fort Liard, Behchoko and Yellowknife NWT.
With co-director Bonnie Gregory, Rod also initiated in 2001 what is now four student fiddle groups in South Edmonton, Gateway Fiddlers, Veteran Gateway (Intermediate), Pre-Festival City Fiddlers and Festival City Fiddlers (Advanced). Rod has co-produced numerous student fiddle CDs and books for these student groups during the last twelve years.
Rod's professional performance career also started in 1981. Highlights include touring Western Ukraine during the summer of 2008 with the Ukrainian fusion band The Kubasonics, and also during 2008 performing and co-presenting a paper at NAFCo, the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention in St. John's NFLD. Over the years, Rod has toured much of Canada with the Kubasonics and various other musical projects. Recording projects include Crystal Plammondon “Carpe Diem” (1993), Rod Olstad “New Time Fiddle Tunes of Freddy Lang” (1996), Sticks and Stones "Tuning In" (1999), the Kubasonics ("Giants of the Prairies" (2002)/ "Big Beet Music" (2005), “The Kubasonics IV: Play” (2010)), "64 Fiddle Tunes Commonly Played in Alberta", “Original Alberta Fiddle Tunes”, and “Bellows and Bows”
During more recent years, Rod has performed with the following musicians/groups:
A passionate and enthusiastic player and instructor interested in several styles of music including classical, traditional Irish and Scottish fiddling, Bluegrass and oldtime, and some Scandinavian traditional music as well.