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Cool Facts About One of Our Greatest Band Composers: Gustav Holst

In the realm of band directors, Gustav Holst is endeared and regarded with the highest esteem. He is often credited as a pivotal force in moving the military band from a ceremonial entity into an artistic ensemble with the writing of the First Suite in Eb for Military Band.

Here are some cool facts about one of the band world’s greatest icons


Gustav Holst hung out with Ralph Vaughan (another pivotal figure in the development of the modern Wind Band). The two met in 1895 at the Royal College of Music and developed a lifelong friendship. The two would often bouce their latest musical ideas off one another.


Gustav Holst played trombone. Although we recognize him for his talents as a composer, he was regarded in his younger years for his skill as a trombonist. To support himself in college he would often play at the pier in Brighton. In 1898, Holst left school to accept a position playing trombone in the Carl Rosa Opera company. He also held a similar position with the Scottish Opera.


Gustav Holst served in the “Great War” as Musical Organizer for the YMCA programs for the troops in the Near East. Holst accepted this position after being deemed unfit for battle due to health. Although he would have preferred to serve in the military, Holst was content to serve his country during a time of war.


Was originally named Gustav von Holst; but, he dropped the ‘von’ at the onset of World War I. With the out-break of the Great War, Holst thought it more politically correct to “dis-regard” the Germanic article.


Guastav Holst learned Sanscrit. He was not fluent in the language; however, he was well versed enough to read passages of Hindu mysticism. The texts of Ramayana and the Mahabharat became sources for his composition Choral Hymns from the Rig-Veda.




* Grout, Donald J. and Claude T. Palisca. A History of Western Music, 4th edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1988.

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