The Preludes Project


In 2013, I was hired by Lafayette College to perform all of Chopin’s Op. 28 Preludes with Compagnie Marie Chouinard, a modern dance ensemble from Montreal. This live performance, which occurred as part of the Williams Center’s Footlight Performance Series at Lafayette College, entirely changed my perception of these preludes. Nearly every pianist (professional or amateur) has performed a few of these preludes, but they take a distinctive meaning when heard next to the others. Hearing them while seeing a modern interpretation of the music invited even more possibilities of discovery. Since our present-day ears already perceive the music in a completely different way from when the preludes were initially heard, it made sense to challenge the expectations of contemporary audiences. This led to my current performance and musicological endeavor, the Preludes Project.

At the end of 2013, I began commissioning 12 composers to write preludes for me. Of these composers, several are established, several are emerging, and others are mid-career. I have received a total of 58 preludes to date. For this season, I am programming them with preludes by Rachmaninoff, Gershwin and Chopin. In previous seasons, I also performed preludes by Bach and by Debussy. Every concert is slightly different yet the response by audiences has been astounding. Not only have they accepted the newly composed preludes alongside the standard repertoire as a logical historical progression, but they are also listening to their favorites with more wonder and more inquiry. While I notice this as I am talking to audiences from the stage, it is also evident in the many questions I receive from attendees after the concert. Audiences are more engaged, living composers are eager to have their music heard, and I can simultaneously serve as a performer and as an historian.


The most rewarding aspect of this for me is it works for every audience. By the end of the 2016, these preludes will have been heard in full-length recitals by 32 separate audiences. They also have been heard in 10 additional concerts as part of larger new music recitals.

In summary, the preludes have been programmed for New Music Concerts at seven institutions, in Guest Artist Series recitals (not specifically for new music) at four colleges, for two established church recital series, for two community music schools, for six retirement villages, for one prominent Steinway dealer as part of their Artist Series, and for multiple lecture presentations.

In nearly all of the programmed 32 solo recitals, I have included at least one world premiere.

I am thrilled that I was also able to record a CD associated with this project. My Preludes Project CD, recorded by Grammy-winning Andreas Meyer, includes Chopin's Op. 28 Preludes and Kirk O'Riordan's 26 Preludes. It will be released by Ravello Records (part of PARMA) on November 18th, 2016. This CD offers a tangible representation of how these newly composed preludes can complement preludes from the standard repertoire.

For Lisa


In her piano lesson, one of my talented 13-year old students asked me why she was only studying music by men. Her age, gender and cultural background (she recently moved to the United States from China) made her question a serious wake-up call. Her more unsettling follow-up “I could never compose (because I’m a girl)” made me realize as a teacher, as a performer, and as a possible role model, my programming choices needed to address these issues of bias with a more focused and communicative approach.

This cognizance led to a new project "For Lisa" which is devoted to presenting music written by women. Like all of the new music I perform frequently, I prefer to program music by composers with whom I have a personal relationship. I have met numerous empowering, intelligent, passionate, and genuine women over the years. I enjoy sharing their music with others, but I am also sharing their stories. By being true to my journey of music making, I can honestly encourage (and hopefully inspire) my students to find their individual voices. Most importantly, I hope to inspire Lisa and other students like her, and to encourage young female students to walk fearlessly down the road of self-expression and creativity.

While I am including music by women I have not met (Clara Schumann, for example), knowledge of all of these composers appeared in pivotal moments of my professional and personal life.

An article describing the beginnings of this project can be found here.

For this season, I will be giving a lecture recital (with works by Michelle McQuade Dewhirst, Mara Gibson, and Kala Pierson) at the “Music by Women Festival” in Columbus, Mississippi and I will be performing Joan Tower’s No Longer Very Clear.

Beginning with the 2017-2018 season, several concerts will be dedicated to women composers.


Holly is available for performances, master classes, lectures, and community engagement. If you are interested in booking Holly, please use the contact form below. Or just say hi!