Timothy Holley is an associate music professor at North Carolina Central University, and he’s performing in a guest recital today, alongside Aleen Pocock on the piano. Holley spoke with staff writer Sarah Ang about being a cellist and the decline of orchestral music. The recital will be held at Person Hall from 8 to 10 p.m.
The Daily Tar Heel: How did this guest recital come about?
Timothy Holley: I’ve done recitals at UNC for quite some time now. I’ve really stopped counting; it’s gotten to be so many.
I love performing in Person Hall because it’s such a resonant place. I like to make a lot of reasons to come and perform.
DTH: Does this recital have a theme?
TH: I’m referring to the theme using the word “flux.” Instead of saying I’m playing nothing but theme and variations, I’m using the word “flux” to speak to flow and change.
I did my doctoral on the cello music of African-American composers. In a sense, much of the repertoire I do is merely an extension of my dissertation.
DTH: How did you begin playing the cello?
TH: Believe it or not, at the age of 10, I had decided to take up the cello. I happened to have a cousin at the time who was playing the cello at the time. I looked up to him as a figure of admiration.
DTH: What’s the hardest or most surprising thing about being a cellist?
TH: Sometimes I’ve been asked by people who see the cello case — and it won’t be disbelief, but it’ll be close to disbelief. It may have to do with the fact that the tradition of playing music that involves the cello is definitely in a different sphere of activity now.
Think of any of the folks that you attend classes with. If you could survey 100 students who attend classes with you, how many of them buy season tickets to Memorial Hall? Not many. Of course, there are a variety of reasons for that. The simplest reason may be financial.
Or it could just be that they happen to come from a hometown, high school or community college where that kind of activity was not given consideration — it wasn’t a part of what people did where they come from. That’s neither good nor bad, it just is.
DTH: Did your upbringing affect you as a musician?
TH: Recordings were played just about as regularly as the radio was played. I have to admit that I’m kind of betraying my age, but there are three or four places in my parents’ home where I can look at just shelves of records. It was just a part of what my family did, not only for their enjoyment, but also for their enrichment. Certainly when you grow up in a community like that, that kind of sensitivity and intellectual curiosity you take with you to your collegiate and adult years.
DTH: Are you concerned about the future of live music?
TH: I often discuss how music is dying because the generation that attended orchestral concerts is getting older. And we have technology now, but not the kind of tech that makes people run out and buy tickets to live concerts. And honestly that’s a concern, especially for us musicians who like live music.
The sense of variety [in music] is more readily available today, but unfortunately it just doesn’t involve orchestras all the time. You also have to bear in mind that the spaces of music and fine arts programs in public school has unfortunately been on a downward slide. It’s harder to find schools where you can get the right kind of daily, hands-on musical training and education.
DTH: What’s one of the best experiences you’ve had as a cellist?
TH: Every once in a while I’ve encountered people who ask if I’ve ever played in an orchestra of all African-Americans, and I’m thankful that I can say that I have. I’ve just gotten back from Charleston where all last week I was playing in the Colour of Music Festival in Charleston, in its inaugural festival of black classical musicians.
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