We had the good fortune of connecting with Dominique Holley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dominique, Let’s talk about principles and values – what matters to you most?
The most important principle I try to always keep in mind both as an arts administrator and a performer is respect. Art is often a deeply personal platform from which to work, especially when you primarily work within the world of BIPOC artists. Whether you’re communicating with audiences or collaborating with your peers and colleagues, you need to be able to project the fact that the work you doing and the people you’re doing it for or with have intrinisic value. Respect can be something as small as saying please and thank you to the people around you or as big as honoring deadlines and appointments or being actively concious of the cultural nuances that relate to a specific project.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
When I first set out on my journey as a musician I considered myself to on the traditional career path of a classical musician: finish a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in music performance followed by auditioning at prestigious orchestras until I won a position that I was happy with. However, through the course of my time studying at ASU, my priorities and interests changed so that I started to become much more enamored with the world of chamber music. Following my sophomore year at college, I began to play bass clarinet more extensively and formed the Driftwood Quintet. Along with my passion for chamber music, I also began seeking ways to reconcile the cognitive dissonance that comes from being an African American musician with a strong connection to his culture who also works within classical music, an art form that has actively worked to stifle the expression of non-European aesthetics. This dilemma led me to use the platform that was being developed by my work with Driftwood Quintet to increasingly advocate for and showcase the musical works of minority composers. The first success I had in this endeavor was the senior recital of my undergraduate performance degree in 2015. That year I programmed my first concert to feature exclusively black composers. My senior recital showed me that it was possible to tie together my love of classical music with my appreciation and connection to my own cultural history in relation to the musical aesthetics found within spirituals, blues, and jazz (to name a few). After finishing school, I have continued to work to explore the space where classical music and diverse cultural aesthetics intersect. I have done so through my work with Driftwood but also through my private on solo projects and collaborations. Throughout my journey as an artist I have learned that if you can make something that is truly personal and compelling for yourself, it will undoubtedly attract other people who are intrigued by your vision and wish to see where your journey can take them as well.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I feel fortunate that I live in a state that offers so many different kinds of activities in such close proximity. When I want to get outside and experience Phoenix’s great weather I like to take my bike down to Tempe Town Lake to coast along the Rio Salado Pathway and make my way to the Scottsdale Greenbelt and back. For lunch I normally like to hit up Cornish Pasty Co. for some UK cuisine or Shady Beach Park to get some of the best ramen in the valley. When it gets later in the day I always like to bring people around to the Lost Leaf or Jobot to hang out on the patio and watch people walk by. Lost Leaf is also a great place to hear music in the evening since they have shows going every night of the year. If I want to change up my music experience for the evening however, then I normally migrate over to the basement of the Downtown Phoenix Cornish Pasty Co. for some live jazz or the neighboring speakeasy lounge Valley Bar to hear other local bands.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Like most artists, I have many people to thank for helping me get to where I am. I definitely have to always give thanks to my mom for working so hard to find new avenues of access to music education and my dad for being such a great role model growing up. Outside of them, however, I think the person who had the largest influence on my direction as a musician was my middle school band teacher Bill Clemons. Not only was he the only black teacher that I ever had in my entire school life from preschool through college, but he was also the first person I received private lessons from on clarinet, my main instrument. I’m always grateful when I think back on how many times he advocated for me and continually pushed me to challenge myself. Above all, he’s the one who allowed me to realize that although music is a serious art form, it should be fun; and if you’re not enjoying yourself then you’re doing something wrong.
Other: my Instagram for solo projects outside of Driftwood: https://www.instagram.com/bassisking/
Headshot: Idara Ekpoh (@ohyeahitsidy)