While the current program draws nearly 200 teams annually, the Minnesota High School Music Listening Contest had a humble beginning over 30 years ago. Dr. Ivan Olson, author of The Arts and Critical Thinking in American Education, recalls the program's initial years:
"In 1987 the Minnesota State University System granted funds for me to develop a pilot music education project devoted to music listening skills at the secondary level. Thirty years' teaching secondary and college students, along with my doctorate from the University of Michigan in music education and musicology had left a deep impression in my mind that listening skills development must receive more attention.
"After a year of planning, I enlisted the help of two of Minnesota's finest artist/teachers, pianist Donald Betts, and conductor Jere Lantz. Together, we worked and planned with four high school music teachers who shared our concerns. The result was the initial High School Music Listening Contest in 1988 which involved 10 high schools from all around the state of Minnesota. The first winning school was St. Cloud Technical High School, coached by orchestra director Steve Eckblad. Steve's team was brilliant, all the other teams did well, and all the students involved felt like winners.
"After a modest growth to 14 schools (four schools cancelled because of budget or schedule problems) in 1989-90, Minnesota Public Radio joined forces with us, and the number of schools in the 1991-92 contest grew to over 40. The 1992-93 contest registered over 80 schools."
From an article entitled "The Minnesota High School Music Listening Contest:
A National Model for a Partnership of Colleges, High Schools, and Public Radio"
written by Dr. Ivan Olson, Director, Music Education Network School of Education
at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
and presented at the College Music Society 1993 Annual Meeting, Radisson Plaza Hotel Minneapolis, MN
Anoka Ramsey Community College
Michele Gillman, webmaster
Gary Gratz, treasurer
Houston High School
University of Minnesota Duluth
St. Mary's University
Pine Island High School
Roseville Area High School
Paul Kile, president
Edina High School
Music Listening Contest Alumnus
Osseo High School
"Northfield High School trio wins third consecutive state music listening title"
By Molly Larsen, Northfield News
Feb. 13, 2015
"Learning to Listen: Minnesota High School Music Listening Contest"
Classical Music Features with Emily Reese
Feb. 9, 2015
"Minnesota students learn to listen through innovative classical music contest"
By Evan Block
Nov. 21, 2018
"LISTEN CONTEST...what kids know about classical music"
By Chris Roberts
Jan. 30, 1998