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Outstanding Women of UA Little Rock: Linda Holzer

Dr. Linda Holzer

In honor of Women’s History Month, UA Little Rock is featuring stories about the “Outstanding Women of UA Little Rock,” faculty, staff, students, and alumni who are serving as leaders and making a difference for the university and their communities.  

Dr. Linda Holzer, professor of music at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, is well known for her work advocating for the music of female composers. 

As a master’s student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Holzer learned about Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in music.

“An article in ‘Time’ magazine is what first introduced me to her work,” Holzer said. “The university’s music library had a recording of her music, and that’s how it all began. Zwilich is so articulate, and her interviews emphasize the importance of teaching music as well as composing and performing. I was interested in learning masterpieces by famous composers, and as an American pianist, I wanted to champion American composers, and I also wanted to learn music of my time by women composers.”

Holzer completed her dissertation on the solo piano music of Florence Price, but it has only been in recent years that she has brought that research full circle. Price was a Little Rock native who became the first African-American woman composer to have a symphonic composition performed by a major American orchestra and one of the first African-American classical composers to gain international attention.

Price applied for and was denied entry to the Arkansas State Music Teachers Association sometime between 1917 and 1927 because of her race. Determined to right this past wrong, Holzer was instrumental in making sure Price was recognized after all these years. In 2018, the Music Teachers National Association honored Price as a Music Teachers National Association Foundation Fellow. Holzer donated the conference program and Price’s certificate and pin to the UA Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture so that it can be preserved for future generations.

Over spring break, Holzer gave a recital and lecture on “Musical Artistry of Florence Price: Hidden Figure No More” at the Music Teachers National Association conference in Spokane, Washington.  

“The response of conference attendees was warmly enthusiastic,” she said. “There was a line of people waiting to speak to me afterwards. It was very rewarding to see there is such a strong interest in Price’s music on a national and international level.”

Additionally, Holzer has performed many recent recitals involving Price’s music in an effort to bring more attention to the artist. Last year, she performed recitals in Austria and Slovenia on “Masterpieces by American Women Composers,” which featured the music of Price, Gwyneth Walker, Margaret Bonds, and Missy Mazzoli. Holzer’s recitals in Austria and Slovenia represent the first time Price’s music was  performed in these locations. Her most recent concert on March 3 featured music from American and Caribbean composers.

“What’s been very gratifying has been audience response. The music is expressive, and it’s meaningful to listeners,” Holzer said. “They listen intently. It doesn’t matter that they haven’t heard of these composers and their music before. All that matters is that the music speaks to them. Sharing the music of Florence Price in her home city has been tremendously meaningful.”

Deborah Baldwin (left) accepts a donation of Florence Price artifacts from Linda Holzer (right) on behalf of the Center for Arkansas History and Culture. Photo by Ben Krain.
Deborah Baldwin (left) accepts a donation of Florence Price artifacts from Linda Holzer (right) on behalf of the Center for Arkansas History and Culture. Photo by Ben Krain.

Holzer first began playing piano at age 7 and became the first person in her family to become a professional musician.

“My extended family certainly loved music, but there were no professional musicians in the extended family,” she said. “My dad played the accordion, and my mother loved to sing. She would put on records of Broadway musicals while she cleaned the house and would sing along.  I joined in. I started piano lessons after my aunt Jessica purchased a piano for her family. My mother was inspired by that to get a piano for our family. My first piano teacher was the organist/choir director at our church, Mrs. Krause.”

Among the most inspiring women in Holzer’s life are Dr. Lynn P. Dieter, a high school English teacher, and Mrs. Seagal, her third-grade teacher, who each set an example for Holzer of the importance of being dedicated teachers.

“I’ve been blessed to work with a number of phenomenal teachers. Dr. Dieter and Mrs. Seagal stand out for their impact on my growth and development,” she reflected.

“I love learning, and I love helping others learn,” Holzer said. “I learn new things constantly. When I think back over the years that I’ve taught, the wonderful range of students I’ve met, thoughtful individuals with their goals, I know it’s a privilege to be part of the process to help students reach their goals of learning about a subject like creativity, or women in music or how to play an instrument. I suppose it’s a matter of paying it forward. I feel so grateful to my teachers. By working as a teacher myself, I am honoring what they gave me, precious learning opportunities.”

Holzer carefully considers her students’ needs and circumstances and relies on a variety of teaching approaches to accommodate different learning styles and deliver web-enhanced content. Her teaching encompasses individual private lessons, traditional face-to-face instruction, and online instruction. Holzer was an early adopter of technology in the classroom. To better serve her online classes, she obtained the Quality Matters certification and chaired the past College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Teaching with Technology Committee for several years.

Holzer has also contributed to the development of a variety of courses, including interdisciplinary collaborations. She has co-taught the Donaghey Scholars course, Creative Arts I, and developed an interdisciplinary course with Professor Dan Berleant in the College of Engineering and Information Technology called Strategies for Innovation. She is also an active member of several teaching-oriented organizations, has received several teaching awards, and even dedicated her 2012 off-campus duty assignments to the study of the learning process and student success.  

“Being a teacher is a bit like working in agriculture. It’s farming for the mind and spirit. It’s not all sunshine and easiness,” Holzer said. “Part of what teachers do is challenge students. It’s about giving students an opportunity for a meaningful learning experience.”