Olsen served as the music director for the Swing Shift Jazz Orchestra, a Eugene big band, for 15 years. During his tenure with the band he conducted for and performed with such notable artists as pianists Michael Weiss and Kenny Drew, Jr., drummer Jeff Hamilton and trombonists Michael Davis and Andy Martin, as well as Shew, Rotondi and Oatts.
His extensive catalog of non-jazz compositions includes several highly acclaimed works for percussion ensemble, concertos for saxophone and trumpet, a wide variety of chamber pieces and the score for "Exit Dying," a made-for-television movie. Olsen’s new CD, "We See Stars," with Dick Oatts, Bobby Shew, John Harmon and 7 other amazing artists, was released by Origin/OA2 Records in February of 2014. "Fragments," featuring his original music for big band, was released to critical acclaim in 1996.
Olsen is currently an artist in residence at the Springfield Academy of Arts and Academics, teaching composition and coaching chamber ensembles. He is also a member of coNtEXT, a cooperative jazz trio, and an active composer and clinician. His music is published by UNC Jazz Press and Jim Olsen Music.