A teacher’s final bow

Third-grade teacher Brian Olson has shared his musical passion with his students for more than 35 years, bringing alive an annual Christmas performance that few forget.

On Friday, Olson’s class at Hawthorne Elementary in San Luis Obispo performed the final show of the Hummers, Strummer and Drummers, a musical collaboration where students play instruments, sing holiday songs and do skits.

It was the 140th time Olson led the show and his last before he retires in June.

The show started small, on the steps of the San Luis Obispo Mission. When the Farmers Market first opened downtown, they performed there. They played at shopping centers to raise money for instruments. And, they’ve always entertained at convalescent homes.

“I wanted to instill in the kids the concept of giving to others,” Olson said, “and to spread some positive energy out there.”

The students practice and perform with passion.

Several years ago, a patient stood for the first time after four years during a rendition of “Frosty the Snowman.”

Principal Kirt Collins said the show is irreplaceable.

“More and more theatrical and musical performances are falling by the wayside, because of an increased pressure for test results,” Collins said. “Yet, his class performs beautifully on standardized tests.”

Olson, a professional musician who plays at venues along the Central Coast, said the dedication and collaboration it takes to pull the show off each year is a valuable lesson for his students. Often, he will run into former students from more than 20 years ago and they will still remember the songs from the show.

“I always say that I laid musical eggs in their brain,” said Olson. “It is the sort of self-esteem that goes on in time. It is a chance for all kids, including those who are not super academic, to shine.”

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune