Lifelong affair with the arts drives Holmberg to success at McCain

Todd Holmberg, executive director of McCain Auditorium, is very involved with the art and culture side of Manhattan. (Cassandra Nguyen | The Collegian)

Todd Holmberg is a very busy man. As the executive director of McCain auditorium, Holmberg focuses on everything from marketing, fundraising, supervising staff, Mccain’s internal and external communication and making artistic decisions for the McCain Performance Series. Being the main figurehead of McCain keeps Holmberg very involved with art and culture and continues to foster a passion sparked within him as a young boy.

“I’ve never met another person that has had the ability to convey their passion and pride in their work such as Todd,” Penny Alonso, vice president at KS StateBank and former Friends of McCain Board president, said. “Every board member of the Friends of McCain would bend over backward to help Todd achieve his goals of delivering a quality arts experience to every person in the Manhattan area.”

He began his love affair with the arts in fifth grade when he started playing the trumpet. In high school he was a member of the marching band and concert band, part of the orchestra and jazz ensemble, played in musicals and participated in choir.

“Early on, while still in high school, my friends and I formed a small ensemble and started rehearsing songs from Mannheim Steamroller, a group from Omaha (Nebraska) just beginning to make it big on the national stage,” Holmberg said. “With their permission, we started entering talent competitions throughout the Midwest. Eventually we started winning those contests consistently. From then on, I realized I was destined to be involved in the arts for a lifetime and wanted to pursue playing trumpet for a living.”

Holmberg grew up in Omaha with an older sister and two very supportive parents who also had a love for music. Both parents participated in band during their youth, but did not pursue it as a professional career like Holmberg did.

“My parents were always supportive of my love for the arts,” Holmberg said. “While I was in high school, they had to make time to attend countless concerts and endured plenty of road trips and they paid for lessons and equipment. When I decided to major in music for my undergraduate degree, they were tremendously supportive. They believed I had the passion and work ethic to succeed.”

After completing his graduate studies at the University of North Texas in 1987, Holmberg accepted a teaching position there in 1988, serving as the undergraduate instructor to trumpet students. He also performed as the principle trumpet in several professional orchestras and toured the U.S. as a part of a professional brass quintet.

A mistake made during a minor facial surgical procedure in 1993 almost ended Holmberg’s career. The procedure was needed to repair a deviated septum which caused chronic sinus problems, but it left his upper lip partially numb, making him unable to perform at the high level he had been playing at. But Holmberg’s passion for professional symphony orchestra led him to press on in the arts career and apply to the American Symphony Orchestra League. He was chosen as a finalist to work as competitor coordinator and production manager at the Van Cliburn Foundation in Fort Worth, Texas.

“I worked with the world’s most preeminent performers such as Yo-Yo Ma, Buddy Guy, Renee Fleming and even Van Cliburn himself,” Holmberg said. “The years I spent working for that most prestigious classical music organization changed the course of my career forever.”

After four years with the foundation, Holmberg moved on to work as director of a few other programs before finally accepting his position as director of McCain auditorium at K-State in 2007.

“There aren’t enough words to properly describe Todd’s passion,” Melvin Chastain, former Friends of McCain board president, said. “He is extremely bright, and is a what you see is what you get type of person. I really don’t think he treats different people in different ways. I’ve seen him take just as much time and personal interest in a conversation with a student intern or a staff member that he does with a well-known performer, a university administrator or a high-level sponsor of one of the McCain Performance Series events or outreach activities.”

Since he joined McCain’s staff as executive director in 2007, Holmberg’s impact has been profound. For the first time in the history of the performance series, there is enough success to spend more than $1 million in artist fees.

“Mr. Holmberg is driven by excellence, plain and simple,” said Gary Mortenson, director of the K-State School of Music, Theater and Dance. “He has the knowledge and background to recognize world-class talent when he sees it and he conversely can see right through the thin veneers of artists who are cleverly packaged to appear much more talented than they really are. He makes no apologies for where we are located and provides great artists with a wonderful place to showcase their talents to an appreciative and sophisticated audience. As a consequence some pretty amazing people think a lot of K-State and Manhattan and want to come back here and perform for our patrons.”

In the end, it’s not money or time that pushes Holmberg. If you ask him or any of those that work with him, it is the same passion that he had as a fifth grade trumpet player that drives him to bring nothing but the best to K-State and to the Manhattan area community.

“The best part about my job is when I impact people’s lives in a positive way,” Holmberg said. “During shows at McCain, I look around and study audience members’ faces and body language. I know I am creating memories that will last a lifetime and cause people to reflect on their own lives. I believe that the arts are a good way to promote empathy among human beings and to make us think about how we interact with each other and the world around us.”