The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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A second look at Meadows Dean Sam Holland

(Courtesy of SMU)

Dean Sam Holland was completing a routine business meeting as Dean ad interim on a slow Friday morning, when SMU’s provost Paul W. Ludden called Holland into his office for a meeting. Holland was sure the provost was going to thank him for his service as Dean ad interim during the process of selecting a new dean for Meadows, and inform him another candidate would be getting the job. He entered the room, sat down and awaited the verdict.

Provost Ludden told Holland the choice was clear and that with the outstanding support of the selection committee, Holland would become the new dean of SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts.

“I wanted to jump up and shout for joy,” said Holland, who served as the Meadows chair of music before he was named dean. “But, of course, we’re not supposed to do that, so I said something like: ‘Wow, I can’t believe it!’”

Some of Holland’s visions for the future include strengthening Meadows’ entrepreneurship program, helping students network after they graduate and partnering with local schools to bring the arts to young people or even building a community art school someday.

Holland also plans to focus on a creative and interdisciplinary culture and give students the tools they’ll need to find good jobs when they graduate.

“I think if you do a study of corporate executives who are hiring, those things are all going to come up,” he said. “Creativity, works well with others, communicates and solves problems.”

Adrian Aguirre, a junior double major in dance and film, and part of the search committee for the new Meadows dean, said that Holland’s emphasis on creativity was one of the reasons he was a top choice on the list of candidates.

“I have many friends in the music department and it’s safe to say they’re very excited,” Aguirre said. “I can see why.”

Holland said he would also like to find possible avenues for unity and collaboration between the communications and arts divisions of Meadows. Meadows School of the Arts includes the divisions of advertising, journalism and communications, disciplines that aren’t always associated with arts schools.

“I think the powerhouse schools of the next generation are more likely to have this model than the isolated, conservatory model,” Holland said. “We are much stronger together than we are separately.”

SMU students and faculty, like Dennis Wees, a junior vocal performance major, and Mason Steeger, a sophomore music education major, think the decision to make Holland the next dean was obvious.

“He already knows the school very well and he knows the working of it,” Wees said.

“I personally think somebody who’s been here for a while is better suited than bringing somebody in that’s completely different,” Steeger said.

Some felt a mixture of emotions at the appointment. David Mancini, director of graduate studies at Meadows, said he felt a combination of elation, relief and trepidation. He said he felt elation because Holland deserved it, relief because no one else got it and trepidation for the future of the music division without Holland.

Under Holland’s leadership as director of the Meadows School’s Division of Music, USA Today ranked SMU the No. 1 music college in the United States for 2014.

Mancini said unifying the different divisions of Meadows has always been one of the biggest problems a Meadows dean faces. He said Holland’s biggest strength and advantage over past deans is the mutual respect between Holland and the faculty.

“He’s able to get faculty to really participate in the functioning of the division,” Mancini said. “But at the same time serve as facilitator and coordinator for faculty efforts.”

Many people describe Dean Holland as a genuine person, a caring teacher and a fit leader.

Holland, who earned a Bachelor of Music from The University of Texas at Austin, a Master of Music from the University of Houston and a Ph.D. in music education at the University of Oklahoma, is the executive director of the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, the author of more than 70 critically acclaimed books and the executive director of the Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy.

Frances Clark was one of Holland’s early piano teachers and is one of his heroes in life, he said. She catalyzed his interest in piano and led him to co-found the non-profit organization honoring her name and teaching ability.

The people that influenced him the most growing up were his father and the different teachers, like Clark, he had throughout his education. He said that in the process of pursuing a serious music career, a musician’s teachers become valued mentors.

“This is someone you work with one-on-one over a period of many years and the relationship, if it’s a good one, becomes quite intimate,” Holland said. “And my piano teachers to me were certainly my heroes.”

Holland started his career at SMU as head of piano pedagogy and director of the Piano Preparatory Department in 1991. Holland has taught piano pedagogy, jazz piano, studio piano, piano master and computers and keyboards classes.

Jose Antonio Bowen, former dean of Meadows and now president of Goucher College, said he could not have been happier when Holland was announced as dean and he is thrilled SMU realized the potential of one of their own.

“He’s patient, he’s thoughtful and he’s strategic,” Bowen said. “That’s exactly the right combination for the next phase of growth at Meadows.”

Wees cited an example of Holland’s easy-going nature: the new dean played an air-guitar solo on stage during a recent performance in the Owen Arts Center.

“He obviously doesn’t take himself too seriously,” Wees said, “But he does care about his work.”

Holland and his wife, Beth, have three children – Kristen Holland, SMU alumna and mother of three; Benjamin Holland, who lives and works in Houston and is a father of one; and Eli Holland, a senior at SMU.

“So I’m a grandfather of four, which I had a very hard time wrapping my head around,” Holland said.

Holland’s advice to first-years is to be open and experience as much as possible, in as many places as possible.

“I think it’s possible to be a serious student and still enjoy your life,” he said. “It’s not a question of either or.”

Mancini was on the search committee that hired Holland and said he found him to be a regular, genuine type of person. Mancini said that Holland’s teaching set him apart from other applicants.

“He was a very thorough instructor that really, really cares about his students,” Mancini said. “I would call him a model teacher.”

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