CCM Wind Ensemble members constantly glance between their music and Director Kevin Holzman as he conducts. 



The pressure to perform


Student journalists glimpse behind the scenes at CCM to capture dedication required of musicians on campus




By Sarah Sikora

Photos by Maggie Heath-Bourne; video by Daniel Deitsch and Maggie Heath-Bourne


March 7, 2018


“First Suite in E-flat for Military Band” by Gustav Holst echoes through the newly renovated Patricia Corbett Theatre at UC’s College Conservatory of Music where the CCM Wind Ensemble plays. 

To the untrained ear, the melodies flow effortlessly, but to Kevin Holzman, assistant director of wind studies, there is still work to be done. 

His hands move in a sharp motion, signaling to the ensemble to stop. 

He points out what needs to be fixed. It’s the last rehearsal before the performance, and pressure is on. Noticing the blank faces staring back at him and slight apprehension among his students, he decides to lighten the mood. 

“Don’t get all Kenny G on us,” Holzman says to the saxophonist in the back. 

The room erupts into laughter, easing everyone’s nerves. 

“From the top,” he says. 





Even though the mood is lighthearted, an unspoken pressure still lingers on the shoulders of those in the wind ensemble. 

“They know that if they’re not playing their part well, they’re letting down their peers,” Holzman says.

The wind ensemble, also known as a concert band, is composed of woodwinds, brass and percussion. As the assistant director of wind studies at CCM, it’s Holzman’s job to audition students for the ensemble.

From there he chooses each part for each student. His goal: Make sure everyone has a chance to shine. 

“It’s really important to me that whenever I work with a player and whenever I place them in a part it’s going to challenge them, it’s going to push them and make them a better musician,” Holzman says.

As one of the top performing and media arts schools in the country, CCM is known for its competitive nature. Holzman tries to eliminate this competitiveness through his philosophy that “every player should be a soloist.” 

He tries to create an environment where students don’t feel pitted against each other. 




Student plays the timpani drums

Timpani, or tuned drums, create a solid foundation for the Ensemble's music.



It’s a concept that second-year jazz studies major Jarrod Leestma has learned to live by. 

“Unless I’m playing lead, my job is to support the lead player,” Leestma says.

Leestma played the trumpet in this year’s ensemble. Having Holzman around has made a difference for every member in the ensemble, he says.

“Everyone understands that the difficulty of what we’re doing is pretty high, so we’re not trying to make it harder on other people, and we don’t want other people to make it hard on us,” Leestma says.

This year’s ensemble is made up of about 65 students.

Every Tuesday and Thursday the students gather in the basement of CCM, rehearsing the same four songs over and over, striving for perfection. But Holzman knows there is no such thing. 

“I’ve never had a perfect performance, and I always remind these students that they won’t either,” Holzman says. “This is the one time in their life they’re encouraged to take risks and make mistakes.” 






Junior Gabrielle Baut says these risks are what make her a better musician.

“I didn’t come to CCM for an easy degree,” Baut says. “I came here to be pushed and to learn as much as I could in the years I have in college before I teach.”

Baut was a pianist in this year’s ensemble, but as a music education major she has to learn how to play every instrument. Having the opportunity to play in the wind ensemble was a dream come true for her. 

“There are only two wind bands at CCM, and two pianists per band,” Baut says. “This isn’t an experience everyone gets to do in college, and I’m really thankful for that.”

The students play their final notes and begin packing up their sheet music and instruments. In less than 24 hours, the performance they have practiced so hard on will finally take place. 

“I want every single person in the ensemble to feel like they are part of the ensemble,” Holzman says.

He places his baton in its case and exhales. 

“It’s not my ensemble, it’s our ensemble.” 



About the project

This piece represents a partnership with UC Journalism students who gathered and shared "The pressure to perform" as part of their fall 2017 capstone course.

Contributors include Sarah Sikora, Maya Odom, Ali Waychoff, Daniel Deitsch and Maggie Heath-Bourne.






Members of the CCM Wind Ensemble during practice