Maestro Holoman changes the tempo
November 21, 2008
By Claudia Morain
D. Kern Holoman arrived at UC Davis in 1973 as a 26-year-old acting assistant music professor with big ideas.
Like performing the Berlioz Requiem. A 90-minute piece for more than 200 instruments and more than 200 choral singers, the piece was extremely ambitious for a novice conductor and a small university symphony. Holoman, filling in for the symphony director for a season, was determined to try it anyway.
In 1976, with instruments and voices borrowed from California State University, Sacramento, he conducted a UC Davis-Sacramento State orchestra and chorus in Requiem performances in Freeborn Hall and the Sacramento Community Center Theater.
"Nobody said, ‘You can’t do that,’ or ‘You must be crazy.’ No one said ‘No,’ ” Holoman recalled. “I’m very grateful to the institution for that. I’ve always felt like I owe the institution more than I could ever, ever repay.”
Holoman has given back in countless ways throughout his 35-year tenure at UC Davis: Besides conducting the Symphony Orchestra for 30 years, he served as chair of the music department, interim chair of the drama department, and founding dean of the Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies. He taught undergraduate and graduate students, wrote nine critically ac-claimed books, founded the Early Music Ensemble, launched the journal 19th-Century Music, worked tirelessly to make the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts a reality, and established himself as one of the foremost Berlioz scholars of our age.
When a Swiss student pulled a musty manuscript from a shelf at a Geneva conservatory in 1983, Holoman authenticated it as a long-lost Berlioz composition. Holoman was entrusted with preparing the 1830 score in modern notation, and he led the UC Davis Symphony in the first performance of the work—on March 3, 1985, in Freeborn Hall.
Holoman earned a bachelor’s degree in music at Duke University and M.F.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton University. He is a former Woodrow Wilson fellow and Fulbright-Hays fellow, as well as a research fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 1995, he received the UC Davis Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement. In 2000, he became the Barbara K. Jackson Professor of Music at UC Davis.
On Nov. 23, Holoman is scheduled to lead the UC Davis Symphony for the last time as its fourth conductor. He will spend a year in France finishing two books, then continue to conduct occasionally after he returns to campus.
An international search for his replacement has begun.
“It’s been a good run, both for the orchestra and its fourth conductor,” Holoman wrote in the program notes for the Nov. 23 concert.
“In the nostalgic moments, I think most of all about college students routinely achieving, individually and collectively, art and beauty of which none of us knew we were capable. … There’s no lack of fond memories, and the good times will continue.”
Audio and video recordings of Holoman’s concerts, including the 1976 Requiem, are available online: ucdso.ucdavis.edu.
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