In Memoriam Michele Holt
Executive Director of the Massachusetts Music Educators Association
By Lori Schwartz Reichl
This article first appeared in the January 2019 issue of Teaching Music magazine.
On July 6, 2018, the music education profession suffered a profound loss in the passing of Michele Holt, who had battled brain cancer since her diagnosis in 2015. In addition to her position with Massachusetts Music Educators Association (MMEA), Holt served in leadership roles in Connecticut and Rhode Island, as Eastern Division and National president for the American Choral Directors Association, as professor and coordinator of music education at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston (her alma mater), and as a member of the graduate choral conducting and music education faculty at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. Encouraging, loving, mentoring, and nurturing others were of utmost importance to Holt, and she did all of these through music education. The recipient of many accolades, she developed a deep and lasting passion for music in all of its forms at a very early age.
Faith Lueth, active MMEA member as both the collegiate coordinator and past president, professor of music education at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, and conductor of the Gordon College Women’s Choir, was a friend and colleague of Holt. Lueth says, “When I was president-elect of MMEA, we hired Michele to become the executive director. She made a huge contribution by streamlining all of our processes. She brought us to a healthy financial point and made sure all proper reports were filed. Most importantly, she brought us to a new professional standard.” In addition to her organizational skills, “Michelle was first of all a teacher,” Lueth says. “She was very passionate about teaching and invested in our organization’s collegiate members. She made sure we found a way each year to help preservice teachers attend the NAfME Collegiate Advocacy Summit in Washington, DC.”
Encouraging, loving, mentoring, and nurturing others were of utmost importance to Holt, and she did all of these through music education.
Thomas Stefaniak, NAfME Constituency Engagement and Organizational Development Specialist, engaged with Michele while promoting NAfME activities and initiatives through governance with state music education associations. Stefaniak says, “Michele was a great person. She was multifaceted. She was an extremely well-regarded music educator. She received the highest NAfME honor a year before her passing, as a Lowell Mason Fellow.” As a member of the Council of State Executives for NAfME, Holt was a very well-respected member. “She had a strong voice and people would learn from her. When she would mention something in a meeting, we listened, and we miss learning from her,” notes Stefaniak.
“Michele’s vision was never filled with herself. It was about the music and others. If you needed something done, Michele would say, ‘I’m there.’”—Faith Lueth
Lueth recalls, “Michele was very optimistic, concerned about doing the right thing, and always doing things with integrity.” She was passionate about volunteerism and committed to developing volunteers to serve as the lifeblood of the organizations she led. Says Lueth, “Michele’s vision was never filled with herself. It was about the music and others. If you needed something done, Michele would say, ‘I’m there.’ She worked right up to the end of her illness.” Holt resigned as executive director on June 30, only six days before she passed away. In honor of her legacy, Holt’s family has split a donation for two awards: one through the MMEA to help collegiate members attend the Collegiate Advocacy Summit and a second at Gordon College to fund individuals studying choral conducting at the graduate level.
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