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The keys to enhancing the live in-game experience

Jets organist Trevor Olfert adds classical notes to MTS Centre setlist

by Anya Snider /

It all started in grade five when a young Trevor Olfert began his musical endeavours in the form of piano lessons. Growing up, Trevor remembers turning the stereo on and spending time playing along with whatever he could find. However, it wasn't until he graduated from university when his musical passion really began to soar. Around the year 1990, when music technology and the electronic aspect of layering sounds started to gain popularity, Olfert really found his knack for music making. After graduating with a general arts and education degree from the University of Winnipeg, Olfert found himself playing in restaurants, churches, and other small events before he got into writing music for a 10-piece instrumental group falling under the genre of pop rock.

Olfert has spent the last 15 years teaching physical education and band at St. George School, part of the Louis Riel School Division. Here, he helps to inspire kindergarten to grade eight children in the importance of sport and music. When asked about the time he spends preparing for various concerts, including game nights at the MTS Centre, Olfert says he spends two to four hours a week at the keys.

Starting up the Open Sky Orchestra 12 years ago, the 40-person ensemble performs once a year at a benefit concert in support of two cancer charities. Over the last five years, Olfert and his orchestra have raised over $60,000 for The Children's Cancer Fund at Health Science Centre and Myeloma Canada. He writes all the music for these concerts and expresses that "it is incredibly gratifying to sit on a stage surrounded by musicians and play a song you've written."

Olfert describes his new opportunity with the Winnipeg Jets as very surreal.

"As a kid I remember going to the Jets games and wanting to stay right till the end to hear the organ player," Olfert shares.

For him, it is nostalgic to be tucked away behind section 318, playing for a team he has grown up supporting. Olfert shares in the passion that accompanies the NHL team, as he expresses his desire to add to the overall experience of a Jets game.

"Even if for a few moments someone notices something I'm playing, that's great because it means that they connected to the music a bit."

Set up with six keyboards, functioning through a computer system, there is unlimited access to the sounds Olfert can come in contact with. Set list and chord chart in hand, Olfert comes to the game and puts his headset on in order to hear himself play as well as the cues as to when to start and stop playing during the pregame and intermission. In a live setting, it is important to be able to improvise, as far as the timing goes, and luckily Olfert has a lot of experience in this department. With two computer monitors located behind his head, Olfert is completely immersed in his own playing for the duration of the hockey game. He explains that it takes a full second for the sound to bounce back to him in such a large space, which is why he listens to himself through his headset in order to stay in time and not slow down.

Although Olfert has had plenty of experience in front of a crowd, he does admit to have been quite nervous for his MTS Centre debut in the first preseason game. By the second and third games Olfert says he was settling in and he is excited for the season to come. Husband, father of two young boys, full-time teacher, and organ player for the Winnipeg Jets makes up a busy schedule for Olfert, and he is grateful for the support and excitement from his family. Playing at the games is not only about the sports aspect, but also about inspiring people with live music.

So, when you hear Europe's "The Final Countdown" echoing through the bowl, take a minute to appreciate the man bringing the live experience to you as you munch on your buttered popcorn … and tap your foot.

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