Meet the People: Simon Holoweiko
October 11, 2021
Editor's Note: 'Meet the People' is an interview series introducing the new faculty who joined the LSU School of Music during the pandemic. What are their passions and motivations? How will they make their mark on our school? Find out by following the series - a new interview will drop every month.
The following interview has been edited for clarity.
Q: Introduce yourself, and tell us what your responsibilities are here at LSU?
My name is Simon Holoweiko, and I'm the associate director of bands here at LSU. I conduct the Symphonic Winds, I teach graduate students who are minoring in conducting, I also teach a graduate-level wind literature course, undergraduate connecting and assist with all facets of the athletic band programs.
Q: From the standpoint of an educator, what do you seek to impress upon your students? What passions and interests drive you as a pedagogue?
I think what I stress the most is collaboration and an appreciation of music. And all music! Not just band, not just large ensemble, not just athletic bands. An appreciation of all music available and the ability to collaborate with one another in that experience.
The beauty of music is that you have to collaborate and you have to do it daily. And it forces you to make decisions that impact others and be cognizant of those decisions.
It's something you see in rehearsals, [students] often asking a lot of questions, trying to figure out the 'why' behind the way we do things. Our job [as faculty] is to empower students to make their own decisions. So if we can find ways to effect positive change and impact somebody's life in a positive direction and through music, that's what I would like students to take away with.
And not every student is going to be a performer. They're not going to all be educators. And they're not going to all be conductors. Every student is going to find what they want to do in music to some extent; at some point they'll be an advocate and they'll be appreciative of what music does, and they will recognize the things that have drawn them to music.
Q: What is your musical backstory? How did you get started and how did it lead you to becoming a college band director?
Originally, I wanted to do computer science and engineering, that was my plan.
And I had a meeting with my high school band director to talk about future plans past high school, as all of his students had to do. He sort of chuckled and said, 'maybe you should do music' and then I chuckled because I was like, 'this is a hobby. I'm not super serious about it. You know, I've had great times, but this was not what I wanted to do for a job.'
And then I started pulling out applications and I was like, well, I really don't know what I want to do now. And it came to the deadline of you need to pick something. So I went to music education, completed that degree and loved it. As soon as I sort of got into the student teaching and the more hands on in classrooms, that is where I sort of decided, yeah, I want to do this.
And it was because you get the opportunity to see students making sort of all these little connections, these little light bulb moments, and these moments of extreme growth and excitement that you sort of miss in other professions, I think.
Q: How do you approach programming and repertoire selection?
Programing is such a big question! It's something that I really love. It's also something that I really dread, because, for me, it's so challenging to find the right things to go together.
I think what we need to do or, what I think about at least, is finding a way to include everybody to the furthest extent possible that we can in our programing, in our teaching, and what we choose to put in front of students, because that becomes what the curriculum for us in the large ensemble world is driven through. You know, what are they experiencing or are they taking away from pieces? What are they being exposed to with pieces? Do they know why we choose these pieces?
So you're looking at who are the students in your classroom, you're looking at how pieces function together in terms of storylines. Are you trying to tell a theme? Are you trying to describe an event? Are you trying to provide some cultural insight to something that maybe people haven't experienced before?
But it's a difficult thing. It's something I take really seriously [and] pride myself on deeply. I certainly ask students for input; what are pieces you like? What are the things you would like to play, or what have you played in the past? Outside of LSU, I'm calling colleagues saying "here's what I'm thinking. What do you think about this?" So there's there's always collaboration in the classroom and there's always collaboration outside of the classroom.
Q: What attracted you to become part of LSU’s music and band programs?
Speaking as someone who was sort of viewing LSU from a distance, there are the obvious things [you see] when you're going through music schools: you hear about programs and you hear about people who are at the highest level of what they do. And LSU has always been a place of that stature. There are top tier programs in every area, in orchestral, in bands, and opera, and choral music, education and performance in applied studios. Everything that happens here is world class.
I've been fortunate in my short time here to have had many experiences that I feel have pushed me to be a better educator, a better role model, a better person. And it's something that I don't take for granted, and I don't think anybody really takes for granted. But a place like this has so much to offer. You don't really know that until you're on campus and you're in the world of it and not viewing it from afar.
As soon as I got to campus, I realized that this is a place about people. It's a place about community. It's a place with incredible students, incredible faculty that all work together, that all challenge each other, that all collaborate. And that is what's really special about LSU.
We here want the world to know that we love music and we want the students to know that we love them. We love the music they're making. And we want people to know that we love what we do.