Pianist Danny Holt is one of a new generation of innovative young musicians ushering classical music into the 21st century. Called “phenomenal” by the late music critic Alan Rich (SoIveHeard.com), and hailed as one of the “local heroes” of the Los Angeles music scene (LAcitybeat.com), Holt brings his boundless energy and wit to unique interpretations of new music, 20th-century music, and obscure, unusual, and neglected repertoire. He is equally at home whether performing on the concert stage, in an intimate house concert, or in one of his elaborate multimedia performances where classical music meets rock concert aesthetics and a performance art sensibility.
Holt has performed nationwide in venues as diverse as Carnegie Hall (New York), REDCAT (Los Angeles), MASS MoCA (North Adams, Mass.), Machineworks (Portland, Ore.), and Joe’s Pub (New York), and he has performed and given guest lectures at music schools and universities across the U.S. and abroad. He can be heard on the Innova Recordings label, pfMENTUM, New World Records, Deutsche Grammophon, and Wide Bench Records.
In 2005 Holt embarked on his first international solo concert tour, performing contemporary piano music in concert halls, galleries, clubs, churches, and living rooms across North America and Europe. The Daily Hampshire Gazette (Amherst, Mass.) called Holt’s performance “simply outstanding” and The Record (Waterloo, Ontario) called Holt “the classical music equivalent of an extreme sports athlete.” Holt’s acclaimed CD of that program, Fast Jump (Innova Recordings) was produced by Mike Garson (pianist for David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, No Doubt, Smashing Pumpkins, etc.) The album includes the first complete recording of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang’s memory pieces, alongside world premiere recordings of works by Graham Fitkin, Caleb Burhans, Jascha Narveson, and Lona Kozik. Fast Jump has been heard on radio stations from New York to Chicago to San Francisco, and places in-between. Gramophone called the album “a compelling showcase for Holt’s innate virtuosity and gregarious temperament” and WNYC’s John Schaefer selected the CD as one of the best new releases of 2009.
Holt’s more recent albums are characterized by extreme contrasts: release (2010) is a self-released CD that explores more muted, introspective musical territory than the rhythmically-charged music of Fast Jump. The catalyst of release was the unexpected passing of Holt’s father in 2008, and the music attempts to portray the complexity of grief. From the opposite end of the musical spectrum, Music of Mark Dresser (pfMENTUM, 2010) is the debut album by Skaller/Holt Duo, Holt’s project with pianist Philip Skaller. The two take Mark Dresser’s deconstructions of the jazz idiom as a point of departure for radical new music for two pianos, fusing improvisation with an obsessive deconstruction of rhythm, form, and the piano itself.
Holt’s 2002 self-released debut CD, Right Now, was called “eclectic and fun” (The Reminder, Springfield, Mass.), and “an offbeat take on the classics…cutting edge” (Daily Hampshire Gazette, Amherst, Mass.) Other past projects include the multimedia performance piece Eusebius (2003), which combines live piano performance with an original film based on Erik Satie’s Vexations, and Innovators, Mavericks, and “Bad Boys” (2006), a multimedia performance piece centered around early 20th century American composers, with original videos narrated by eminent experimental composer James Tenney.
A specialist in contemporary music, Holt has been a fellow at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Institute, the New England Conservatory Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice, and the Weill Music Workshop at Carnegie Hall. He is frequently seen performing in the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, and on Santa Monica’s Jacaranda: Music at the Edge series. He has performed with Blue Man Group, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the California EAR Unit, The Robin Cox Ensemble, CalArts New Century Players, the New West Symphony, and the Calder Quartet.
Among Holt’s ambitious solo projects is The Piano/Percussion Project. Over 20 composers have created new works for Holt’s unique setup in which he plays piano and an array of percussion instruments simultaneously. Since Holt is known for his virtuosic, no-holds-barred performances, it is no surprise that composers from around the world continue to contribute pieces to this collection. Holt continues to unveil new versions of The Piano/Percussion Project, and recent performances include appearances at REDCAT (Los Angeles), CNMAT (Berkeley), The Switchboard Festival (San Francisco), Rice University, Princeton University, and CalArts.
In addition to championing the works of emerging composers, Holt has worked with such composers as Steve Reich, Louis Andriessen, Christian Wolff, Arthur Jarvinen, James Tenney, Graham Fitkin, David Lang, Michael Gordon, Augusta Read Thomas, Jo Kondo, and Michael Finnissy, among others.
In 2001, Holt became a Yamaha Young Performing Artist, a distinction reserved for only ten musicians each year. In 1999 he won a prestigious award from the National Alliance for Excellence, which was presented to him by composer Philip Glass. He has also received numerous awards and grants from ASCAP, the American Composers Forum, the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust for New Music, and the National Federation for Advancement in the Arts.
Holt holds degrees from California Institute of the Arts, Hampshire College, Smith College, and Interlochen Arts Academy. He is also a percussionist, composer, teacher, and scholar. He resides in Los Angeles, where he serves on the faculty of the Herb Alpert School of Music at California Institute of the Arts.