Michael Holland straddles the ephemeral boundaries between percussion, theater, and movement. He serves on the music faculty of Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music where he is Artistic Director of Blair Percussion VORTEX, a group he describes as “a playground of invention, a virtual sandbox inviting actors, dancers, musicians, engineers—artists of all stripes—to ‘play’ in the sand.” VORTEX was named 2010’s “Best Next-‐Wave Student Music Ensemble” by Nashville Scene arts critic Russell Johnston, who closed the citation with: “ ‘Downtown’ ain’t just for New Yorkers anymore.”
Among his many teachers, Holland considers the years in private study with Paula Culp, of the Minnesota Orchestra, and Earl Yowell, of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, to be the most influential in his professional life.
His freelance percussion credits include numerous performances and recordings with the Minnesota Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Minnesota Opera Orchestra. As a section player on the University of Minnesota Northrup Dance Series, he worked for the Bolshoi, Joffrey, American Ballet Theatre, and San Francisco Ballet. He was a section percussionist in the 1992 Spoleto and 1993 Waterloo Festival orchestras, worked in the pit for the renowned Guthrie Theater, and performed on numerous projects with the American Composers’ Forum at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
In his formative years Holland studied drama, music, and movement, anticipating a career that would meld these disciplines into a unique hybrid. Today, his most interesting projects take shape in the creative nexus where percussion and broad, theatrical concepts merge. A fondness for theater, film, circus arts and physical performance define his drive to push the nature of presentation beyond academic convention. He works extensively with visionary composer/producer Mary Ellen Childs. For five years he was a core player in her theatrically charged percussion group CRASH, with tours including St. Petersburg, Russia and San Francisco’s Other Minds Festival. Cirque du Soleil cast him as percussionist and featured taiko drummer in Dralion.
Meet the Composer, the Minnesota Arts Board, and the Curb Center at Vanderbilt have awarded supporting grants allowing him to curate and produce thematically-‐ driven percussion events that incorporate lighting design, staging, film, modern dance, uncommon collaborations, and the breaking of conventional performance practices. He is currently producing a large-‐scale John Cage retrospective concert, featuring VORTEX with former dancers of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, rare archival photographs, and historic film and audio clips. Michael Holland attended the University of Wisconsin and Mount Senario College, earning his BS degree in Music Education, followed by an MA degree in Percussion Performance at Eastern Illinois University. He is an endorsing artist for Vic Firth Percussion.
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