Music Huskie Spotlight

Huskie Spotlight: Jack Holston, B.A. in Music with minor in Southeast Asian Studies, ’25

Jack Holston

What did you want to be when you were growing up? When I was a kid, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do as an “adult.” I would toy around with many different career paths, and at one point I even convinced myself that I was going to join the Navy.  I came to NIU going down an elementary education route, however, I never felt fully satisfied with this because of my passion toward music–music was always in the back of my mind. Come junior year, I bit the bullet, and decided to switch my major from elementary education to music with a recording arts emphasis, which is crazy because I was about to start ‘clinicals’–I was about to start teaching kids. It’s been a little bit of a setback, being that I won’t graduate on time, but this has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I love the school of music, and everyone I’ve met has been really nice to me! I feel a lot more motivated to do homework because the material is interesting to me!

What is your major (and/or minor) and why did you decide on this course of study? B.A. in Music w/Southeast Asian Studies Minor

What is your favorite thing about studying and/or playing music at NIU? My main instrument/s are electric guitar, bass, and drum set. I’ve been able to use my guitar knowledge to play stringed instruments in my world music classes which have taught me a lot about different tuning systems and things of that nature. I’d love to be able to take classical guitar classes here, or even find more guitarists in the school of music so I can jam with them. My favorite thing about studying at NIU is learning material in my classes that is applicable to my interests. I produce/record music at home, and taking classes like ‘electronic music and composition’ has taught me so much that I didn’t know before. In the first week of class, Prof Brian Penkrot showed us a fascinating thing called the ‘harmonic series’ which explains why sounds have specific timbres. That’s like, the most important thing about music!

How have you connected with other students at NIU? I’ve talked to other people who are in the same classes as me. Initiating conversations about something that I have in common with someone else is a good way to make friends. I even formed a band over the summer with people I met in my classes, and we played three live shows in the city!

Are you involved in any student organizations or extra-curricular activities? I’m in a handful of ensembles, and I just applied to be in the recording services. These extra-curricular activities are what helped me to make friends. It also gave me a lot of ‘hands-on’ experience.

Who has been one of your favorite instructors/professors and why? Dr. Jui-Ching Wang comes to mind–She’s been extremely supportive and patient with me. She’s in charge of the world music program here at NIU. She helped ignite my passion for music outside of the western scope. Because of her, I’ve learned many different instruments from around the world,  and I’ve also decided to minor in Southeast Asian Studies–I’m now taking Indonesian which has become one of my favorite classes.

Why did you choose NIU to study music? I was already attending NIU, so transferring to the school of music seemed like a no-brainer, it was hassle-free. Also, after looking around at everything that the school has to offer regarding audio engineering/recording, I was hooked. There’s a really chill atmosphere here, and the staff seem passionate and competent.

Where is your favorite spot on campus or in the community? Why are you drawn to it?  The music library is my favorite study spot. The upstairs is super chill and quiet, and there are tall windows that offer a great view. It’s also super convenient to have a library in the school of music because I can hit it after class without having to walk 10-15 minutes to Founders [Memorial Library.]

What advice would you give to a student who is applying to colleges?  Go with a school that offers great financial aid–you’ll appreciate it after you graduate 😉 Also, make sure the campus is walkable and beautiful!

What do you do to relax or recharge? I play guitar when I want to relax. Not practice guitar, but play songs that bring me joy. I also like to run, and admittedly, I like to go on TikTok. I’m definitely addicted to my phone, and it can help me relax. But it’s also important to go outside, and do hands-on things.

Coming to college, what is something that you have had to learn to do differently? I’ve learned to be a better listener. At college, you’re going to come across so many different types of people. Whether it be students or professors, you’re going to want to listen to their backstories–more than likely, they’ve lived completely different lives from yours. There’s a plethora of backgrounds that people come from. I especially like listening to international students describe their lives from the country where they were born. It’s so fascinating.

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