Striving for the gold


Zainub Tremasi

Smooth rhymes fill the halls of DHS during sixth period as Mr. Olariu enlightens his students with jazz, during an advanced jazz lesson, in room L-102, to prepare for the fall jazz concert on October 31. Teaching at DHS since 2001, Mr. Olariu was taught to play a variety of music when he first attended college, at the age of twenty-one, and started his career playing a trumpet at a local bar in Russia.

Rodas Hailu, Co-Editor-in-Chief

After escaping communism in his home country of Romania in 1989, band instructor Mr. Cory Olariu has since led a free life enriched with his passion for music.


As a child, Olariu had been exposed to instruments, such as the piano and the trumpet, practicing each instrument for a fixed amount of hours every day. Since the communist government of Romania paid for education, the devoted musician had the opportunity to go to a music school free of charge to further enhance his musical interests; however, many problems arose from free schooling. Romania only had five music schools, each accepting 25 students; therefore, the competition was overwhelming. Once he graduated from high school, he applied for a spot at a music conservatory, with only six spots available for the 60 candidates applying. The young musician auditioned for a trumpet chair at the school, but failed to obtain a seat.


“I played everything perfectly,” Olariu said. “Everything was right until I messed up on a chord.”


With his chances gone, Olariu made his way to the Romanian Navy. Although the Navy was a very brutal experience, it was during his two years at sea where his musical interests were sparked again.


“I got to see an international jazz festival live by the beach at the Black Sea,” Olariu said. “That gave me the boost to learn, so after I finished my service, I went back to my home town and found one guy that was teaching jazz, since in our schools nobody was teaching it.”


Olariu found teacher Liviu Butoi to assist him with his trumpet playing skills. For six months, the artist would practice ten hours a day in order to establish his career as a jazz musician. Because he was trained classically on the trumpet and piano, the transition to this new genre came with hardly any difficulties.


After the performer trained in the area of jazz, he made his way to the nightclubs and restaurants of Romania, getting hands-on experience leading the life of a performing musician. At the age of 23, however, Olariu escaped communist Romania, as the government was intolerant and neglectful. With that, he finally made it to the United States. After arriving, the Romanian-born musician jumped back into school, obtaining his Bachelors and Masters degrees in the music field from California State University, Long Beach. Once he received his teaching credentials, he started teaching band at Downey High School in 2001; however, even years after finalizing his formal education, the professional artist believes he is still learning.

“I learn from students. I’m always looking with a critical eye,” Olariu said. “When I see performances that are not so good, I learn what not to do.”


Since his reign as band instructor started over ten years ago, there has been great transformation within the music department at Downey High School. From his jazz band performing at the Hollywood Bowl to his jazz choir being placed as one of the top eight in the country, his teaching has led to numerous opportunities. To obtain such chances, however, the band instructor has implemented a very rigorous and demanding practice schedule for all his musicians.


“It’s [as a musician] very difficult,” Olariu said. “When the opportunity comes, you better be prepared. If you’re not prepared, you’ve just wasted your time.”


Junior Ben Lopez gives credit to his instructor’s hectic itinerary for building his musicianship.


“It’s rigorous, but it’s what we need,” Lopez said. “People need to practice. There are some things that you can’t do on your own.”


For senior Samantha Reising, her mentor has become a source of inspiration.


“I think he’s amazing,” Reising said. “If I become a teacher, I will base everything off of him,”


Because of his positive intentions in mind, the devoted trainer has created a place where the dedicated will become his proudest accomplishments. As Olariu continues to establish stronger musicians, the decisions he makes for his protégés will come from his deepest compassion.