Aside from teaching choral conducting and introducing new music to his choir students, David Holdhusen – the associate professor of music, chair of the music department and director of choral activities- also teaches his students passion.
Holdhusen had a traditional upbringing in music, as he got involved in elementary school singing in the choir and playing violin in the orchestra. It wasn’t until he was in the ninth grade that Holdhusen realized he could have a career in music.
“When I was in ninth grade, I was selected to a national junior high honor choir in Louisville, Kentucky, and that kind of changed my future plans,” Holdhusen said. “After that, I realized I wanted to do music as a career.”
Holdhusen received his bachelor’s degree in music with an education certificate at Gustavus Adolphus College, his M.M. from Northwestern University in choral conducting and his Ph.D. in music education from Florida State University.
After receiving his Ph.D., Holdhusen began teaching music at USD and has been here for 11 years.
“I love the students without a doubt. It’s the students and it’s the process of having those students come in at the beginning of the year and giving them a big packet of music and them learning, discovering and growing with the music,” he said. “That whole process is so exciting to me.”
Holdhusen’s students love him as well. Eldon Warner, a junior music performance major, said Holdhusen is the reason he decided to attend USD.
“He approached me at a vocal competition my senior year and he knew I hadn’t chosen a college, so he invited me for a tour and I loved it. So, he is kind of what brought me here,” Warner said.
Warner said he loves the passion that Holdhusen puts into his work.
“His passion bleeds through in everything he does. No matter what he’s working on, he puts so much heart into everything,” he said.
Holdhusen said he can attribute his teaching styles to an influential teacher he had
“My first undergraduate teacher, Karle Erickson. He was probably the person who I have most modeled my program after,” Holdhusen said. “He was the first person that gave me the idea of what it would be like to run a collegiate program.”
Elizabeth Wensmann, a senior music education major, said she enjoys her classes with Holdhusen.
“He is very energetic and upbeat. He’s fast, he does not like to do things slow and lazy. He is very to the point, ‘let’s do it until you get it right,’” she said.
Wensmann was originally a biology major before switching to music education, and she said she owes a lot to Holdhusen for helping her pursue her music career.
“I started taking music classes here and I realized I loved it too much to not do it for the rest of my life,” she said. “(Holdhusen) pushed me to have larger goals. He really pushed me in my dreams and what I want.”
Each spring break, Holdhusen takes the USD Chamber singers on a tour. The tour schedule rotates each year. This year was a regional tour, so the group traveled to cities in the midwest such as Pierre, Sioux City, Sioux Falls and Rapid City and performed.
“This is good exposure for the university, but it also gives our singers more opportunities to practice the music,” Holdhusen said.
During their time at USD, each student also has the opportunity to go on an international tour. Next year, the choir will be going to London and Paris.
Holdhusen also arranges to have a professionally recorded session of the chamber singers.
“A gentleman from Minneapolis comes down and we do a four-hour professional session. We recorded 10 songs. The hope is I take the music from every two to three years and we produce a CD on a professional label,” he said.
Holdhusen said he wants his students to graduate with a lifelong enjoyment for music.
“Even if they don’t continue with careers in music, I want them to have a love and passion for music and know that it is a lifelong passion,” he said.