Benzie superintendent goes viral for singing video

Special to the Record-EagleBenzie County Central Schools Superintendent Matt Olson sings his parody version of Billy Joel's "The Longest Time" in a video announcing that school was closed because of severe weather. The video has been viewed more than 250,000 times on Facebook.

BENZONIA — Matt Olson's smooth and melodic voice wasn't enough to melt the snow outside of Benzie Central High School, but it did warm the funny bones of the more than 250,000 people who watched his video.

The severe weather conditions forced school districts across the state to close for the third straight day.

Olson, the superintendent at Benzie County Central Schools, went viral when the video of him crooning along to a parody of Billy Joel's "The Longest Time" showed up on Facebook and then spread to the Weather Channel, the Washington Post as well as national news networks.

Nearly 6,000 people had shared the video on Facebook by 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

"It's been crazy," Olson said of the attention. "Just to have something fun to put us on the map for 15 minutes is kind of cool."

Olson braved the bitter conditions as he stood in front of the high school and sang, "Mother Nature has other plans in store. Frigid wind chills are knocking at our door. Weather confounds me. Snow and ice and cold surrounds me. We haven't had school for the longest time."

The singing superintendent said another similar video from officials at Swartz Creek Community Schools singing a parody of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," which is nearing one million views on YouTube, pushed him over the edge.

"A bunch of my friends downstate tagged me in that and were like, 'C'mon, man. You've got to do it,'" Olson said. "I kind of succumbed to peer pressure."

Those friends had good reason to prod Olson, who sang in choirs in college and also performed with an all-male acapella doo-wop group. The first song that group ever sang just so happened to be 'The Longest Time," and Olson was the lead.

"I sat down to start rewriting lyrics, and it wasn't hard," he said. "We've got a lot of material to work with. This is kind of a funny situation."

Olson wasn't the only local superintendent having fun with the closing announcements via social media.

Frankfort Elberta Area Schools Superintendent Jeff Tousley put up three short videos using Snapchat filters to break the news. Tousley's first video featured him with bunny ears and whiskers, the second with bulging cartoonish eyes, and the third transformed him into a squirrel with a high-pitched voice. The videos had been viewed nearly 10,000 times on Facebook.

"It was just a little bit of humor," Tousley said. "When we get to this point, let's have a little fun with it — but now these snow days are getting kind of old."

Tousley said one thing is for sure: he won't be singing in any future videos.

"I have made it very clear to Matt (Olson) that he doesn't have to worry about any competition from me, because I can't sing a lick," Tousley said. "He's safe in his glory."

Recommended for you