It is Wednesday morning at 9 o’clock, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus D. Kern Holoman strides onto stage at the Ann E. Pitzer Center. Greeting hundreds of students enrolled in the Department of Music’s signature course, Music 10, Holoman quickly dispenses with pleasantries. There is, after all, music to be learned. Participating in a decades-long rite of passage, Holoman’s charges listen to J. S. Bach’s baroque work “Badinerie” from Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067. Matching its lively tempo with a wit equally as acerbic, Holoman invites students to ponder the meaning of music anew.
Holoman, who retired in 2013, eagerly agreed to teach Music 10 this quarter at its new home, the Ann E. Pitzer Center. In the early 1980s, he designed and piloted the course, a survey of European art music from the medieval period to the present. Holoman’s pioneering book, Masterworks, was one of the first music textbooks to incorporate multimedia elements, including a website and CD-ROM. Sympathetic to the rising costs borne by UC Davis students, Holoman has, since 2010, offered a free electronic edition of Masterworks to all Music 10 students.
A long-time proponent of the campus’s Center for Arts, first announced by Chancellor Emeritus Vanderhoef in 1994, Holoman played a pivotal role in building both the Robert & Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts and the Ann E. Pitzer Center. Decades of committee work, fundraising, and construction culminated in the grand opening of the Pitzer Center in September. With the ribbon cutting of the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art on November 13, Vanderhoef’s grand vision of a campus arts district will finally reach fruition.
Of course, as Vanderhoef reminded readers in his 2015 book Indelibly Davis, “the job’s not yet done—not while there are collections to build, programs to support, and endowments to fund” (Vanderhoef, 28). To which we might add: courses to teach. Inspiring a new generation of Music 10 students, Holoman maintains exacting pegagogical standards—without compromise. Students must learn to spell correctly the name of composer Ludwig van Beethoven, notate a major scale, and draw a bass clef (spelled bass, not base). Taking special pleasure in mentoring concert reports, Holoman encourages students to omit the words “awesome” and “overall” from their prose (students at the University of California can do better, he insists).
Still, one can’t help but feel awe when Holoman teaches Bach’s “Badinerie.” Forty years into a storied teaching career, he remains absorbed in the intricacies of music—its capacity to excite and inspire, but also to edify.
–Michael Accinno, Graduate Student Researcher and Ph.D. candidate in Musicology