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The Holland Guitar Project

The Holland Guitar Project highlighted the influence of 19th-century Black classical guitar pedagogue Justin Holland in modern American guitar styles and traces the development of each style to modern times. Holland’s success in classical music during and after the time of slavery in America, his invaluable contributions to the development of musical style in the American guitar community, and his ability to carve out a professional niche that combined performance, teaching, publishing, and composition make him a historical role model for musicians and listeners of all ages. 

Article: "Justin Holland and the Classical Roots of the American Guitar Sound"  - Kim Perlak, DMA

A quintessentially American instrument, the guitar has been the voice of generations of American players in a variety of musical styles. While each stylistic tradition traces its own oral history and is defined by a unique musical vocabulary, American guitar styles share common roots in the classical and fingerstyle traditions of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Seminal players of this time set the standards for the development of their chosen styles and the establishment of a true American guitar culture. In well rounded professional lives and an artistic immersion in both European traditions and contemporary American sounds, they struck a balance that has been passed on to today’s players. In this way, the life and work of the most well-known American guitarist of the 19th century, Justin Holland (1819-1887), provides insight into the experience of the modern American guitarist.

To read the full article, click here

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The Holland Guitar Project 2008 ~ Columbia, SC

Funded by: The Carolina Center for Leadership and Engagement in Music, co-sponsored by The Center for African American Southern Music at the University of South Carolina

Schools served: 10 Title 1 designated public schools in Columbia – elementary, middle, high school – that serve a predominantly Black population. Guitar students at the University of South Carolina who are developing their skills and scope as young professionals

Program: School performance lectures on Holland’s life, American culture, guitar styles; Recital of Holland’s music for solo guitar and that of contemporary American guitar composers. (given at the University of South Carolina).


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The Holland Guitar Project 2010 ~ Austin, TX

Funded by: The 2009-10 Yale Alumni Ventures Grant

Schools served: AISD public schools under the auspices of the Austin Classical Guitar Society; Austin Community College, Austin Guitar School, Concordia University

Program: 12 School performance lectures on Holland’s life, American culture, guitar styles – given with guitarists from blues, folk, and jazz styles; Concert of Holland’s music for solo guitar and that of contemporary American guitar composers in collaboration with guest performers and area students.

This program series welcomed guest performer/lecturers from the professional blues, jazz, and roots music communities: David Hamburger, blues guitarist; Bret Boyer, jazz & roots guitarist; Kirby Kelley, 2009-10 “King of the Blues”.

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