Listen: 'Justin Holland: The Guitar's Black Pioneer'
Justin Holland: The Guitar's Black Pioneer
One of the best guitar virtuosos of the 19th century lived right here in the United States. Justin Holland arranged and composed music for the guitar that would be played by people across the nation. Some of that music has recently been recorded for the first time.
Besides being a composer, arranger and guitar virtuoso, Holland also was a teacher, Freemason and civil-rights activist. He was born free and used his freedom to help enslaved Black people escape through the Underground Railroad; he moved in the same national circles as statesman Frederick Douglass.
American Public Media recently commissioned the recording of 26 pieces composed or arranged by Holland. Most of the pieces have never been recorded before, and 12 of them are included in this hourlong special — hosted by Scott Blankenship, with Holland expert Prof. Ernie Jackson.
W.H. Rulistun (arr. J. Holland): Rochester Schottische – Ernie Jackson, guitar
Justin Holland: Last Waltz of a Lunatic – Ernie Jackson, guitar
Giuseppe Verdi (arr. J. Holland): La Traviata – Michael Vascones, guitar
Ludwig van Beethoven (arr. J. Holland): Gertrude’s Dream Waltz – Michael Vascones, guitar
Vincenzo Bellini (arr. J. Holland): La Sonnambula – Michael Vascones, guitar
Justin Holland: Home Sweet Home With Variations – Mark Delpriora, guitar
Joseph Labitzky (arr. J. Holland): Elfin Waltzes – Mark Delpriora, guitar
Justin Holland: Peek-a-Boo Waltz – Mark Delpriora, guitar
W. T. Wrighton (arr. J. Holland): Dearest Spot on Earth – Keith Calmes, guitar
Justin Holland: Pansy Blossom Waltz – Keith Calmes, guitar
Justin Holland: Moonlight Mazurka – Keith Calmes, guitar
Friedrich von Flowtow (arr. J. Holland): Martha – Gabriele Leite, guitar
Justin Holland: Musette de Nina – Gabriele Leite, guitar
Gioachino Rossini (arr. J. Holland): William Tell Overture – Gabriele Leite, guitar
Ernie Jackson is an expert on the work of Justin Holland, including a book on the composer (The Music of Justin Holland), and is a music professor at Queensborough Community College in New York. Magazines including Guitar Player, Guitar World and Downbeat have featured him. He is also the featured instructor in the guitar technique instructional video Fingerstyle Funk. His other books include The Everything Guitar Book and The Guitar Chord Composer.
Gabriele Leite has studied at the Manhattan School of Music and has won several national guitar competitions. She is the co-founder of the Brazilian Classical Guitar Community, a platform for publishing and broadcasting online recordings of Brazilian composers.
Michael Vascones, who’s also from Queens, has played guitar since he was 12. He studied at the Juilliard School and now is pursuing his master’s degree at the Manhattan School of Music.
Mark Delpriora is chair of the Guitar Department at the Manhattan School of Music. In addition to composing many works for guitar, he has won the Andrés Segovia Award for Outstanding Performance.
Keith Calmes has been performing and teaching guitar for more than three decades. Although known for his classical work, he has played guitar in a variety of styles, including surf, jazz, rock and Indian.