Our Life in The Arts

Questions, reality, and musings on a life of joy and wonder

Vol. 2, No. 2

February 10, 2022


By Rich Holly

At a very early age my mother taught me to make lists. Lists for chores I had to complete, lists for items I might want to buy, lists of who to write thank you cards to for birthday gifts, and so on. I am a life-long list maker, and I now joke that if it isn’t written down, it isn’t real.

This month’s post is a list about inspiration – my inspirations, to be specific. I can’t and won’t even try to claim that this list is exhaustive (so if you believe you inspired me and you don’t see your name, I’m expressing my deepest apology in advance). And it will be a jumble of people, places, things, and experiences I’ve had that have had an impact on me wanting to be a professional in the arts. I’ll provide links, in case you’re looking for more inspiration and mine may be of help to you.

Inspiration is important to all artists, and inspiration can come in many forms and from any number of places. What and who inspired you to become an artist? What and who inspires you now? I encourage you to make your own list of inspirations.

Before digging into my list, let’s all enjoy a great Beatles song written and sung by George Harrison:

First and foremost, I want to acknowledge the great inspiration I get daily from my family. And I’ve been tremendously inspired by all my private percussion teachers, whom I’ve named in previous posts. There are several hundred drummers and percussionists who have inspired me, so I’ll leave those names for (perhaps) another time.

Here, then, in no particular order, are some of my artistic inspirations:

Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquín Rodrigo

The Adirondack Mountains

Janis Ian

Miles Davis

Summer Jam at Watkins Glen

J. David Abt

Piet Mondrian

Aretha Franklin

The Geirangerfjord

Gary Burton

Beverly Sills

Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 5

Alexander Calder

Mel Brooks

Eileen Southern

John McLaughlin

Neil Simon

The Beatles

Jimmy Smith

Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings

The (Young) Rascals

Carole King

St. Thomas, V.I.

João Gilberto

Sly and the Family Stone

Los Papines

The Monkees

Coastal Italy

African textiles

Salome by Richard Strauss

Ella Fitzgerald

Oscar Peterson

Pat Metheny

Herb Deutsch

Martin Dreiwitz

Automobile design

The Marx Brothers

Marvin Gaye

Chick Corea

Stevie Wonder

Steely Dan

Dave Brubeck

Claude Monet

Roberta Flack

The waterfalls of western North Carolina

Danny Kaye

Tito Puente

Salvador Dali

Pavane pour une infante défunte by Maurice Ravel

Duke Ellington

Rich, inspired by the students in a recent cajon circle. Photo credit: Carol Nix.

I’ll stop there for now. Here’s something else inspiring for me: taking the time to create this list, reminiscing about who and what inspired me, reading more information, listening (again) to several favorite selections, and thinking back to my childhood and early developmental years (as an artist) and how meaningful these (and other) inspirational moments were to me. It was a heartwarming trip down memory lane, and I recommend you do the same.

Rich Holly serves Arts NC State and the NC State University community as the Executive Director for the Arts.

All posts in the “Our Life in the Arts” series are available here.