With over 600 choral compositions in publication, Prof. James Mulholland of Butler University chats with Ryan just before a concert exclusively of his works (including a new commission). Dropping the names of legends and movie quotes with equal ease, Prof. Mulholland reminisces on his early creative influences with surprising wit and tenderness, and advocates passionately for the careful regard for text.


Highlight to Tweet: “When did you start loving music? That’s like asking, ‘When did you start loving your mother?’” -James Mulholland

Show Notes:

  • Prof. Mulholland has a strong relationship with poetry, inspired by his father’s love for the art. His upbringing included a memorable time when he was 17, sitting around a table with his father’s friends: Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, and Truman Capote.
  • He was drawn to his mother’s piano playing, and he emulated her.
  • He is starting his 54th year at Butler University. It is a good fit for a man who considers himself more of a creator than a performer.
  • He counts the English composers Purcell, Britten, and Warlock among his compositional influences, with their flowing melodies.
  • He speaks of coming from a “magic” environment, surrounded by great singers like Leontyne Price, Beverly Sills, and Eleanor Steber
  • Working with Robert Shaw was horrible and wonderful.
  • Music lifts texts and gives them light, magnifying certain words and phrases you wouldn’t otherwise understand.

3 Key Takeaways:

  1. Don’t knock athletics. They bring men to your campus.
  2. Surround yourself with brilliant and creative people, and soak in every second.
  3. Spend more time reading poetry and teaching text. There is no greater purpose in music.

Resources/links Mentioned:


James Quitman Mulholland, composer, is Professor of Music at Butler University and was Director of Music at First-Meridian Heights Presbyterian Church. He started the study of composition, voice, piano and various musical instruments at the age of twelve. At Louisiana State University, he completed his BM and MM in Voice and Composition, followed by four years as a Graduate Assistant at Indiana University, working toward the degree of DMA in Performance and Literature. His compositions have been chosen as required repertoire on over forty states’ high school choral lists, and, in addition, have been performed at the last four national conventions of the ACDA. Many of his compositions have become standard repertoire for children’s choirs throughout the country, as well as most collegiate and professional ensembles. In 1995 he was named as Louisiana State University’s School of Music Alumnus of the Year. In 1996 he was selected by the ACDA to compose the Raymond W. Brock Memorial Composition which was performed at all of the Regional Conventions. Outside of his selective writing, he accepts approximately ten commissions a year. He has received commissions and performances in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and throughout Europe.

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