For as long as she can remember, music has always been a central part of Doris Holz’s life.
“I started taking piano lessons when I was a little girl, and when I wasn’t playing the piano, I was always singing,” says Holz, who is Vice President-Development at BMCC and Chief Operating Officer of the BMCC Foundation. “I just loved music.”
Music continues to figure importantly in Holz’s life. A classically trained lyric soprano, she performed with the BMCC Downtown Symphony in an all-Beethoven program November 5 at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center.
The concert opened the 2014-2015 season for the orchestra, under the direction of its founder and long-time conductor, music professor Douglas Anderson.
Bridging two worlds
Holz, who holds a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Connecticut as well as a Master’s in Education from Hofstra University, continues to study voice privately and has sung in a wide array of operas, off-Broadway musical productions, chamber and orchestral concerts, solo recitals and High Holiday services.
How, one might wonder, did she wind up with a career in fundraising?
As it turns out, there are powerful synergies between the two fields—music and fundraising—according to Holz, who has also held leadership positions with United Way of NYC, Lenox Hill Hospital, UJA-Federation and Yeshiva University.
“Early in my career I applied for a position with a fundraising consulting firm,” she says. “The head of the firm felt that people who loved music and were involved in it made good fundraisers.
I’d never considered fundraising as a career, but it turned out to suit my personality and skills very well.”
Over the years, Holz says, her passion for music has contributed to her success in her chosen profession. At the same time, the experience of working closely with people in the field of fundraising and development has enhanced her life in music.
“I love music and sharing it with people, and I love having people learn about BMCC and the work we’re doing,” she says.
A full season
The BMCC Downtown Symphony was founded by Anderson soon after he joined the faculty 28 years ago.
“We typically perform four times a year—an orchestral concert in in November and March, a Handel’s Messiah sing-along in December, and a concert version of an opera each May,” he says.
The musicians include BMCC students, faculty, staff and alumni, as well as neighborhood residents.
“We have a dual mission—to provide our students with an opportunity to hear free orchestral concerts and to provide a creative outlet for the entire college community—both on and off campus,” Anderson says.
It was last year when Holz asked to audition for Anderson. She had performed with numerous orchestras and opera companies, but never with the Downtown Symphony.
“I wondered if she was a real singer or simply someone who thought she could sing,” he recalls.
“Then I heard her and realized immediately she is indeed a real singer—a lyric soprano with a big, rich voice and a flair for the dramatic, which is very important in this piece.”
Despite its great appeal, Ah! Perfido ranks among Beethoven’s lesser-known works—which was one reason why Anderson chose it.
“Everyone knows Beethoven’s Fifth and Ninth Symphonies and the Moonlight Sonata, but there are any number of great pieces that rarely get a hearing. So we called the program ‘Unusual Beethoven’ and included his Eighth Symphony and his Romance in F for Violin and Orchestra.”
He also called on music professor Maureen Keenan to conduct a Beethoven work of her own choosing. She decided on a similarly obscure work—the overture to The Creatures of Prometheus, Beethoven’s only full-length ballet.
“I’ve been an orchestral musician since childhood, but I’d never performed The Creatures of Prometheus in concert,” Keenan says. “I read the score, listened to the music, and decided it would be perfect.”
The piece, like much of Beethoven, isn’t easy to master, she adds. “But I approached it as an adventure—figuring out how I would address some of the technical issues as a conductor, rather than as a member of the orchestra.”
Holz too enjoyed attacking the technical challenges of Ah! Perfido. Anderson had initially thought to cast her in last spring’s production of the Rossini opera, Barber of Seville.
“But after hearing her, I decided to save her for something bigger, more challenging and more dramatic—something by Beethoven.”
Holz, in fact, was familiar with Ah! Perfido, but had never had an opportunity to perform it.
“It’s a gorgeous piece and I immediately told Doug I’d love to do it,” she says. “It was the perfect way to make my debut with the BMCC Downtown Symphony.”