B.S. (Mount Senario College); M.A. (Eastern Illinois)
Senior Lecturer in Percussion
Michael Holland's work 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.”
Holland's freelance percussion credits include numerous performances and recordings with the Minnesota Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Minnesota Opera Orchestra. He has worked with the Bolshoi, Joffrey, American Ballet Theatre, and San Francisco Ballet. He was a section percussionist with the Spoleto and Waterloo festival orchestras, worked in the pit for the renowned Guthrie Theater, and he has backed up Marvin Hamlisch, Andy Williams, mime artist Michael Hennessy, Xelias Aerial Performance Company, and Circus Juventus. He has performed on numerous projects with the American Composers Forum at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
Throughout high school and college, 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 defines his drive to push the nature of presentation beyond rote, academic convention. He works extensively with visionary composer/producer Mary Ellen Childs, and for five years 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.
As a producer, Holland has distinguished himself for his ability to curate and create critically acclaimed, multifaceted percussion events that incorporate lighting design, staging, film, modern dance, uncommon collaborations, and the unexpected use of architectural elements throughout the performance venue. In support of his efforts to engage audiences and prepare students for the volatile, multi-disciplinary percussion world that awaits them, he has received numerous awards from Meet the Composer, the Minnesota Arts Board, and the Curb Center at Vanderbilt.
The most recent award, funding a monumental 2012 John Cage multimedia retrospective with VORTEX and former dancers of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, was hailed by venerated Cage scholar David Patterson as “extraordinary, spot on,” and “the standard by which future Cage shows will be judged.”
Holland did his undergraduate training at the University of Wisconsin and Mount Senario College, where he received his BS degree in Music Education. He went on to study under Johnny Lane at Eastern Illinois University and received his MA degree in percussion performance. He completed several years of additional study with Paula Culp of the Minnesota Orchestra, and Earl Yowell of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Holland is an endorsing artist for Vic Firth Percussion.