David Holsinger

David Holsinger

David R. Holsinger (born December 26, 1945 in Hardin, Missouri) is an American composer and conductor writing primarily for concert band. Holsinger is a graduate of Hardin-Central High School in Hardin, Missouri, Central Methodist University, the University of Central Missouri, and the University of Kansas. He is well known across the nation as well as the world for his differentiating time signatures throughout his pieces.


Conducting positions

In 1999, following 15 years of service as music minister, worship leader, and composer in residence to Shady Grove Church in Grand Prairie, Texas, he joined the School of Music faculty at Lee University, Cleveland, Tennessee, as Conductor of the Lee University Wind Ensemble. Holsinger’s duties include teaching advanced instrumental conducting and composition.

In 1999, Holsinger conducted the Kentucky All-State Symphonic Band. Some of his works that were played and recorded included To Tame The Perilous Skies, Consider the Uncommon Man, and On An American Spiritual.

In the spring of 2000, Holsinger conducted the Georgia Southern Symphonic Band and the Georgia Southern Symphonic Wind Ensemble in Statesboro, GA

Over the past several years, Holsinger has been named a National Patron of Delta Omicron Music Fraternity, awarded the Distinguished Music Alumni Award from Central Missouri State University, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia’s Orpheus Award, as well as, honorary memberships in Kappa Kappa Psi National Band Fraternity and the Women’s National Band Directors Association. In April 2003, Holsinger was presented the Distinguished Alumni Award from Central Methodist College, and the following month, at Graduation Ceremonies, Dr. Paul Conn, President of Lee University presented the composer with the university’s prestigious “Excellence in Scholarship” faculty award for his continued achievement in musical composition.

In February 2009, Holsinger conducted the District VIII Symphonic Band in VIrginia. In the Spring of 2009, Holsinger guest conducted the District V Honor Band in Georgia.

In the Spring of 2010, Holsinger guest conducted the West Virginia All-State Band in which he has composed a piece for titled "Coal Mountain Portrait.". This is the second time Holsinger has guest conducted the West Virginia All-State Band, the first in the Spring of 2007.

In February 2011, Holsinger guest conducted the district VII Symphonic Band in Virginia, were he premiered his new piece titled "Solem Hymn & Rowdy Dance."

He currently serves as the conductor of the Lee University Wind Ensemble at Lee University, Cleveland, Tennessee.


Over the past ten years, Holsinger served as Visiting Composer in Residence at eleven American colleges or universities, and held the Acuff Chair of Excellence in the Creative Arts at Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, Tennessee. In 1999, the Christian Instrumental Directors Association awarded Holsinger its “Director of the Year” citation. The composer was also honored with biographical inclusion in “The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music”, Vol. I and III, and in Norman Smith’s “Program Notes for Band”.

Compositions by Holsinger receiving outstanding reviews include The Easter Symphony, a three movement, 55 minute chorale symphony commissioned by The Gustavus Band in 1995, based on the Passion of Christ, and the U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Command Band commission, To Tame the Perilous Skies. High marks by reviewers have also been given to the memorial work, Consider the Uncommon Man; Praises, a six-movement ballet suite; Scrappy Bumptoe’s Picture Cards and Ragtag Diary, composed for the Kansas Brass Quintet; Sinfonia Voci for band and choir; and The Song of Moses, a four movement band/choral work premiered by the United States Air Force Band and Singing Sergeants and selected for broadcast nationally on a National Public Radio Special Project on Vocal Music in August, 1997.[1]

Other much played works in Holsinger’s catalogue include The War Trilogy: 1971, a special edition of the Kent State contest winner; Abram’s Pursuit; a rollicking overture based on a story from the Book of Genesis; and Adagio, which was composed in the memory of a departed friend.


Much of Holsinger’s music is characterized by unrelenting tempos, ebullient rhythms, fluctuating accents, poly-lineal textures, vigorous asymmetrical melodies, and high emotional impact. Many of Holsinger's pieces are characterized by a lively and kinetic mood. He frequently makes use of shifts in time signature, with the overall effect of rhythmic richness. In his composition In The Spring, at the Time when Kings Go Off to War, he even uses additive meter, or irregular subdivisions of beats with his already unusual time signatures.


His works include:

  • ABRAM'S PURSUIT, a rollicking overture based on a story of Abram from the Book of Genesis
  • A CHILDHOOD HYMN, which is based on the hymnsong "Jesus Loves Me"
  • ADAGIO, composed in memory of a departed friend, an intensely emotional synthesis of both joy and pain.
  • AMERICAN FACES, a triumphant overture celebrating the diversity of America.
  • BALLET EXALTARE, A Grade 5 piece written in a somewhat more classical style for Holsinger.
  • BALLET SACRA, a 15-minute work that includes a short choir part in the middle section.
  • BATTLE MUSIC (2001), a work inspired by Revelations 12:7; “And there was war in Heaven...”
  • Cityscapes
  • Cluster Fluster Bluster March
  • Coal Mountain Portrait, his latest piece that was commissioned by the WV Bandmasters Association for the 2010 WV All-State Band which he conducted and it debuted on March 6, 2010.
  • CONSIDER THE UNCOMMON MAN, a memorial work
  • DIVERTIMENTED DANCES, composed for the 2006 Massachusetts All-State Festival which he also conducted. It is a series of seven dances.
  • The Easter Symphony, a three movement, 55 minute chorale symphony based on the Passion of Christ
  • Elegy on an American Folktune: Remembering Erin Suzanne Hutchison
  • Every Morning New
  • Falcon Attack!
  • Fantasy on a Gaelic Hymnsong
  • Festiva Jubiloso
  • Fort Canterbury March
  • The Gathering of the Ranks at Hebron
  • GEARS PULLEYS CHAINS (2005), a playful tribute to the mechanical history of Shelby, Ohio
  • Havendance (1985) overture for concert band, written for Holsinger's daughter, Haven. This piece is arguably the most musically eclectic of the "Holsinger children" pieces.
  • Nilesdance (1987), written for Holsinger's son, Niles, characterized by a certain, short repeating phrase.
  • Graysondance (1995), written for Holsinger's son, Grayson. This most recent of the "Holsinger children" pieces is characterized by a jazzy mood, featuring walking bass lines and other such elements.
  • Gmyway's Revenge! (1994) This piece is a three-movement work for symphonic band. It was written for the tenth anniversary of the Greater Milwaukee Youth Wind Ensemble, reflected in the name of the piece. The first movement of the piece is entitled "Alla Brashly Bravura: 'Enter the Hero, Sir Gmyway of Vordak,'" characterized by its rather whimsical nature. The second movement, "Intermezzo? Thoughtso!: 'The Beguiling Countess Adnil,'" is a considerable shift in character, beginning with a lonesome flute solo and slowly augmenting to include the rest of the band. The third, and perhaps most infamous (among band students, horn players, esp.), movement is entitled "Presto Zoomissimo-issimo-issimo!:'In Pursuit of Rattazinski, der Villain!'" It is perpetually kinetic, often characterized by a syncopated 5/4 rhythm. The names of these movements have significance in the context of the premiere of the piece. "Vordak" is a rearrangement of "Dvorak," the surname of the conductor of this piece's premiere. "Adnil" is simply Dvorak's wife's first name (Linda) spelled backward. Finally, "Rattazinski" refers to a rival conductor. Gmyway's Revenge is considered a staple of the concert band literature.
  • Helm Toccata
  • HERO MUSIC (2005), commissioned to celebrate the life of a well loved Tennessee band director
  • HOMAGE: THREE TAPESTRIES, Holsinger's tribute to composer Vaclav Nelhybel
  • LITURGICAL DANCES is subtitled Benedecamus Socii Domine which translates "Let us (all), as companions, Praise the Lord!"
  • THE MAELSTROM, Commissioned for the L'Anse Creuse High School Wind Symphony in Harrison Township, Michigan.
  • Mobbusters!
  • ON AN AMERICAN SPIRITUAL is based upon the African hymnsong "Were you there?"
  • "ON A HYMSONG OF LOWELL MASON" is based on Lowell Mason's 1832 work Olivet (My Faith Looks Up To Thee).
  • ON A HYMNSONG OF PHILIP BLISS (1989) is Holsinger's translated American hymn “It is Well with my Soul”. It is his largest selling work and has been used in several televised memorial performances in recent years, including commemorative services for the Challenger astronauts, Ronald Reagan, and the fallen heroes of the American armed forces. This piece was written to honor Rev. Steve Edel, the retiring principal of Shady Grove Christian Academy, and was presented to him as a gift by the academy's concert band.
  • On The Overland Stage to El Paso
  • One Day In a Small Town... (2004), a four-movement piece commissioned by the Fayette (Mo.) High School Music Boosters for director Roy "Skip" Vanedelicht after his 25th year at the school. First movement, titled "On a Breeze That Drifts About Courthouse Square" includes strains from "Barnum and Bailey's Favorite", the school song from Holsinger's alma mater, Central Methodist University. The song is played by marching band in all parades, and all parades will follow a route that goes around the courthouse square in Fayette. The second movement, titled "Dancing and Mischief in Liberty Park" is named for a city park located on the south side of the town. The third movement, titled "An Immeasurable Hero", is in reference to Vandelicht. The fourth movement, titled "Chasing the Band Bus on MO240" includes "Washington and Lee Swing", the fight song for Fayette High School. Missouri Route 240 goes through Fayette.
  • Partita Allegro, for woodwind chir
  • Peasant Dance Village
  • Prairie Dances It contains many alternating time signatures.
  • PRAISES, a six-movement ballet suite
  • RIDING WITH THE FRONTIER BATTALION Commissioned by the Association of Texas Small School Bands for the 2000 ATSSB Symphonic Band. Holsinger conducted the premier performance.
  • SCOOTIN’ ON HARDROCK, a jazz suite for concert band. Commissioned by the Grand Island, NY music program for the Grand Island, NY High School Wind Ensemble. Holsinger conducted the premier performance.
  • Solemn Hymn & Rowdy Dance, debuted at the Virginia District 7 All-District Band Concert on February 5, 2011 by the Senior Symphonic Band
  • THE SONG OF MOSES, a four movement band/choral work premiered by the United States Air Force Band and Singing Sergeants and selected for broadcast nationally on a National Public Radio Special Project on Vocal Music in August 1997
  • SCRAPPY BUMPTOE'S PICTURE CARDS AND RAGTAG DIARY, composed for the Kansas Brass Quintet
  • SINFONIA VOCI for band and choir
  • SYMPHONIC MOVEMENT, commissioned by the Missouri Bandmasters Association for the 25th Anniversary of the Missouri All-State Band in 2001.
  • TEXAS PROMENADE, celebrating the 50th Anniversary Convention of the Texas Bandmasters Association
  • To Tame the Perilous Skies was commissioned by the 564th Tactical Air Command Band, United States Air Force, located in Virginia, and received its premiere performance in the fall of 1990. Although it leaves the storyline completely to the listener's imagination, "Perilous Skies" was conceived as a programmatic work literally depicting two opposing forces colliding in battle. The elongated canonic introduction presents a six-pitch intervallic display that is used throughout the composition, both as an intact melodic statement and a fragmented germative device, to depict every extra-musical element from serenity to air war to triumphal deliverance. Little did Holsinger realize the prophetic nature of the work, when at the time of its premiere the United Nations forces were assembling in the Persian Gulf; it was only a few months later that the world watched as modern technological air power "tamed the perilous skies" over Iraq and Kuwait. Then, in retrospect, this work is dedicated not only to the exceptional men and women of the Tactical Air Command, but to the spirit of the modern military aviator, taming the perilous skies that all men might live free of tyranny and oppression.
  • THE WAR TRILOGY: 1971, a special edition of the Kent State University contest winner


  • THE SYMPHONIC WIND MUSIC OF DAVID R. HOLSINGER, (Mark Recording Studios, Clarence, New York) feature major professional and university performing organizations in both live and studio sessions with the composer. Volumes 1 through 10 are available, and further volumes are planned. The first two discs were released in 1995.
  • Havendance was recorded in 1987 on "Yale University Concert Band in Japan, Denon 32CG-1877 (Yale Concert Band, dir. Thomas Duffy)

Awards and recognition

  • Holsinger was twice awarded the prestigious Ostwald Award of the American Bandmasters Association.[2]
  • The April 1999 issue of The Instrumentalist magazine featured an interview with Holsinger and two articles concerning his compositions.
  • Holsinger has been named a National Patron of the Delta Omicron Music Fraternity
  • He was awarded the Distinguished Music Alumni Award from the University of Central Missouri (formerly Central Missouri State University)
  • He received Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia’s Orpheus Award,
  • He is an honorary member of Kappa Kappa Psi National Music Fraternity
  • He is an honorary member of the Women’s National Band Directors Association
  • Holsinger was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for lifetime achievement in composition by Gustavus Adolphus College, and presented the Gustavus Fine Arts Medallion, the division’s highest award.
  • In April 2003, Holsinger was presented the Distinguished Alumni Award from Central Methodist University (formerly Central Methodist College)
  • In May 2003, Lee University presented Holsinger with the university’s "Excellence in Scholarship" faculty award
  • In November 2004, Holsinger was named the "2004 Honorary Alumnus of the Year" by the Alumni Association of Lee University.

Drum and Bugle Corps

Holsinger's works have been very popular in the world of drum and bugle corps since the 1987 Cavaliers first put "Liturgical Dances" on the field. In 1993 Holsinger—himself a former marching band director—spent time with the Cadets to help them understand the music they were portraying, with To Tame the Perilous Skies (1992 Cadets, 2nd place). In the Spring, When Kings go off to War and On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss (Both 1993 Cadets, 1st place), Symphonia Ressurecttus (2002 Spirit and 2003 Magic of Orlando), Abram's Pursuit (2003 Magic of Orlando), as well as Battle Music (2007 Bluecoats), and many other works performed by junior and senior corps frequently since 1987.


External links


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