Kevin Michael Holzman

May 10, 2018

1. You recently made the transition from doctoral student at Eastman to Director of Wind Studies at CCM. How have you found yourself meeting the adjustments that come with this change?

While it is true that no school or program can completely prepare someone for a big academic position, I cannot imagine an experience doing more to prepare me to be the Director of Wind Studies at CCM than the DMA program in Conducting at Eastman. Rather than feeling like this has been an adjustment, I feel that my transition to this position has been more of a natural evolution, the logical next step that the education and training I received prepared me for. One of the greatest aspects of my time at Eastman is that it prepared me so thoroughly to be successful in any music director position. As a student of Dr. Mark Scatterday and graduate assistant to the Eastman Wind Ensemble, I was fortunate to receive so many incredible opportunities and be given invaluable responsibilities throughout my course of study. While I refer to the transition as more of an evolution than an adjustment, it is of course a significant change to go from full-time student to full-time professor. At the end of the day, there is nothing more important to me than the success of the CCM Wind Studies program and its students, and I constantly evaluate in what ways I can best contribute to their success as students, future professionals, and musical citizens. The three years I spent at Eastman contributed immensely to my ability to succeed in this endeavor, and the entire Eastman experience (and especially the Eastman Wind Ensemble) continues to serve as a model of excellence.

2. What factors do you consider when making programming decisions?

Programming is, without a doubt, one of the most important responsibilities a conductor has. I recently finished programming for the 2018-2019 season, so this is fresh on my mind! Some of the questions I consider in choosing repertoire to be programmed include:

  • Is the music written well (idiomatically) for every instrument?
  • Is the composition, as a whole, cohesive?
  • Will my students learn and grow from performing this work?
  • Is this work too easy or too difficult for the players in the group?
  • How much rehearsal time will be necessary to achieve a great performance?
  • Does the work call for styles, techniques, skills, or knowledge that the students can apply to other works in the future?
  • Is this work written by a composer who could be categorized as belonging to an underrepresented group?


Once I have a basic idea of the repertoire, I start to form programs. Some of what I must consider in this process includes:

  • Soloists: Will the program feature a concerto? If so, will the soloist be faculty, a student, or a guest artist? Concerti need to be put into place very early to ensure they work with the soloist’s schedule.
  • Programming History: Have any of the works been programmed in the past 4 years?
  • Budget: What works do we already own that can be programmed? What makes the most sense economically for the given season and for the long-term programming of repertoire?
  • Relevance: Is this program relevant for the students performing? Is it relevant for audiences? Will it impact, touch, inform, and challenge audiences and performers?
  • Diversity: Is the program diverse? Is there a representation of significantly underrepresented composers?
  • Cohesiveness/Flow: Does the program work and flow naturally from beginning to end? Is the program an appropriate length?
  • Rehearsal Time: How many rehearsals do we have to dedicate to this program? What portion of that rehearsal time will be needed for each piece?
  • The Season/Academic Year: Is there a logical progression from the beginning of the season to the end of the season?

3. What wind band repertoire do you find particularly exciting and inspiring at the moment?

The rate of growth in repertoire for wind ensembles is simply astounding right now, and it is a very exciting time to be in the field. We sadly lost three iconic and prolific composers for wind ensemble in the past few years: Karel Husa, Steven Stucky, and David Maslanka. A significant amount of my attention has been on the works of these three great composers, each of whom had an important and individual voice. The music of Warren Benson and Joseph Schwantner, composers associated with the Eastman Wind Ensemble, is also often on my mind.

I find it very relevant, especially as of late, to perform works by underrepresented groups, especially female composers, in an effort to diversify our repertoire. The CCM Wind Symphony will be performing “The Eyes of the World Are upon You,” a recent work by CCM Alumnus Jennifer Jolley, next season. Sally Lamb McCune is another fantastic composer, and she has also contributed great works to the wind literature, including CAVEAT, which we will be performing during the 2018-2019 season as well, among many other works.

Finally, I am always looking to support composers who are new to the wind medium, and to be a part of expanding the growing list of quality new works for winds. It certainly is an exciting time to be a wind conductor!

4. How do you envision collegiate ensembles evolving over the next ten years?

I see an increased need to not simply commission and premiere works, but to perform them multiple times so that they become part of the traditional repertoire of our medium. Our repertoire is sure to continue to evolve as composers bring new and fresh ideas to us; part of our responsibility is to balance our great tradition with these new ideas.

I believe we are starting to see increased diversity in our field and in our ensembles, particularly from underrepresented groups, and I believe that our collegiate ensembles can lead the way in embracing and furthering this diversity. I also envision a further evolution of ensembles at the collegiate level; thanks in large part to the Eastman Wind Ensemble concept, composers have become immensely creative and adventurous in their scoring, writing for large and chamber ensembles, and previously unexplored timbral and spatial possibilities. I believe that collegiate ensembles must, and will, continue to be flexible in their approach, mixing chamber ensembles with larger ensembles, and everything in between.

We are all certainly aware of the changing nature of technology and communication, and we must evolve with these changes to stay relevant. Collegiate ensembles have the opportunity to lead the way into the future, and I look forward to being a part of that.

5. In what ways have your experiences in the Arts Leadership Program impacted your professional life?

The first ALP course I took was Entrepreneurial Thinking with James Doser. That class challenged me to think in completely new ways about music, a career in music, and what it truly means to be a musician. That course, as well as the other courses, seminars, and workshops I attended as part of the Arts Leadership Program, helped me immensely in getting to where I am today.

From my experiences in ALP, I know it is not enough to simply be a great artist, but that we all must challenge ourselves to think in an entrepreneurial and forward-looking manner in order to reach wider audiences, and to impact more lives. I learned that there are so many ways in which music can reach the community, and that we should not limit ourselves to the concert and recital hall. I discovered the true power of making good connections, and that it is part of our responsibility and opportunity as professional musicians to connect and collaborate with others. I have taken all of these concepts and more to my current position. Most importantly, I was connected through the Arts Leadership Program to an invaluable network of mentors, colleagues, collaborators, and friends, for which I am eternally grateful.