The Olson/De Cari Duo, a husband-and-wife ensemble, is dedicated to performing and expanding the repertoire for classical guitar and voice. Their unique and intimate approach to song performance comes from soprano Gioia De Cari’s background as both a film/theater actor and a classical singer, and guitarist John Olson’s sensitive and intelligent approach to both new and traditional repertoire. NYlon Review has described their performance as “superb . . . served up with style and elegance.”
Their debut CD, Quiet Songs, features the world premiere recording of David Leisner’s song cycle Outdoor Shadows, as well as the first American recordings of John W. Duarte’s Five Quiet Songs and his arrangements of Gershwin songs. According to Urban Guitar, “fresh interpretations . . . make this a CD worth listening to.” The Duo has performed throughout the United States at venues and series that include the Second Sundays Classical Guitar Concert Series and The Monkey in New York City; Festival 21, the MIT Chapel Concert Series, and King’s Chapel in Boston; and the Science Cabaret of the National Association of Science Writers.
The Olson/De Cari Duo is actively creating new music for voice and guitar through their Science/Music Commissioning Project, which seeks to illuminate the human side of science through song and celebrate the insights of a science-informed worldview. The Project’s first piece, Abyss of the Stars: A Mass for Voice and Guitar, was written by composer Terry Champlin, faculty member at Mannes College of Music and Vassar College. The piece sets texts by renowned scientists Albert Einstein, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Richard Feynman in the context of the traditional mass. The juxtaposition of these texts alongside the Latin words of the mass highlights the sense of wonder and celebration that accompanies the scientific understanding of physical laws, human origins, and the evolution of the cosmos.
The second piece in the science/music project, Scientiphilicity, was written by harpsichordist, organist and composer Thomas Donahue. The first two movements uses texts by several famous scientists, including Einstein, Bohr, and Curie. The third and final movement is a setting of a poem by Mr. Donahue, based on the writings of Jacob Bronowski. The texts provide insight into what doing science entails, and draw parallels between art and science.
The Project’s third piece was composed by Frank Wallace, a prolific composer of music for voice and guitar, who performs as guitarist and singer with Duo LiveOak. The six-movement song cycle, entitled Men, Women and Molecules, sets poems by Roald Hoffmann, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist at Cornell University. The poems explore life, love, and human relationships with insight and humor, from the unique perspective of a scientist.
Read an interview with the Olson/De Cari Duo at BenchFly.
John Olson pursues an eclectic life in music, science, and arts administration. As a guitarist, he performs in several ensembles, including the Olson/De Cari Duo, the Contemporanea Guitar Duo, the Brooklyn Guitar Quartet, and the Nylon Wound Guitar Quartet. He also serves as a section leader and soloist with the New York City Guitar Orchestra. Committed to the generation of new music, John has commissioned over a dozen new works. He has studied guitar with David Leisner, Jon Harris and Neil Anderson, and organ and baroque performance practice with organists Rick Erickson and Rodney Gehrke. He has performed in guitar masterclasses with Ben Verdery, William Kanengiser, Raphaella Smits, and others. He released a CD, Quiet Songs, with the Olson/De Cari Duo that contains baroque and twentieth-century music for solo guitar and guitar and voice.
Since 2007, John has served as President of the New York City Classical Guitar Society. John has revitalized the organization and made it a thriving and central part of the city’s guitar community. Since 2014, he has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Guitar Foundation of America, the largest organization in the United States devoted to the classical guitar. He has organized a series of Guitar Society Summits for leaders of similar organizations, and has led panel discussions on arts administration and career management at the GFA Convention and the Yale Guitar Extravaganza.
As a scientist, John received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has performed research for over twenty years in academic and industrial settings. He is dedicated to bridging the worlds of science and music through his Science/Music Commissioning Project, which seeks to expand the repertoire for guitar and voice and explore connections between science and music through song.
The passionately eclectic Gioia De Cari is an actress, playwright, classical singer and “recovering mathematician.” She began her performance career in avant garde opera while a teaching fellow in mathematical logic at Harvard. Since then, she has played numerous leading acting roles in theater, commercials and films, including the multi-award-winning film Lower East Side Stories, which screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Slamdance, and many festivals in the United States and internationally.
Gioia’s first solo play, The 9th Envelope, which she wrote and performed, received a rave in OOBR: “De Cari commanded the stage with energy, poise and range.” Her second solo, Truth Values: One Girl’s Romp Through MIT’s Male Math Maze, an autobiographical story of her past life as a mathematician, was recently awarded a Puffin Foundation grant. First workshopped in 2008 at Six Figures Theatre Company’s Artists of Tomorrow Festival and the Emerging Artists One Woman Standing Festival, Truth Values played in the New York International Fringe Festival in August, 2009, winning a FringeNYC Overall Excellence Award and enthusiastic reviews: “[FOUR STARS] . . . De Cari . . . inhabits no fewer than 30 roles with gusto” (TimeOut New York); “Funny and insightful . . . replete with hilarious characters . . . The story is riveting . . . go see this show!” (CurtainUp). Truth Values received its regional premiere in September, 2009, on the mainstage of the Central Square Theater in Cambridge, MA, and was subsequently nominated for an Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) award. Gioia continues to tour Truth Values throughout the United States.
Gioia has studied acting with the legendary teacher and solo show director Wynn Handman, with whom she did extensive development of Truth Values. She has also studied playwriting with the late Milan Stitt of Carnegie Mellon. An accomplished singer as well, Gioia has studied singing with Irene Gubrud, Robert Honeysucker and Eddie Sayegh. With her husband, classical guitarist John Olson, she released her debut album, Quiet Songs in 2006. They have toured and concertized throughout the United States. After graduating summa cum laude from UC Berkeley, Gioia earned a master of science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Gioia is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association and The Dramatists Guild of America.