Trios for Two: two musicians, three professions

The pairing of two professional musicians are together changing the face of chamber music

More stories from Sydney Purpora


Photo by Sydney Purpora

Trios for Two is a unique musical duo with their own music written specifically for them. Consisting of piano, percussion and viola, this pairing is bringing a new twist to the music world.

Slowly and quietly audience members scurried to their seats and the concert hall began to fill up just minutes before the performance began.

As the audience lowered their voices to a soft whisper, two musicians entered stage right with their instruments in hand and music on their minds.

For Molly Gebrian and Danny Holt, music is about more than just a performance— it is an extension of themselves.

“Music becomes part of your identity,” Gebrian said. “I feel like my instrument is a part of my body. When I am traveling and I don’t have my instrument I feel like I left my arm at home.”

The musical pairing, Trios for Two, performed a unique selection of pieces for UW-Eau Claire students, faculty and community members Sunday Sept. 11 in Gantner Concert Hall.

Gebrian, assistant professor of viola and music theory and professional violist, and Holt, professional pianist and percussionist, have been playing for 30 years and have loved music ever since they were little.

“From a pretty young age I realized that I was pretty good at music,” Holt said. “I just loved it and eventually gravitated towards making music.”

Gebrian and Holt met at a music camp coordinated by the University of Hartford at age 15 and have remained friends for 20 years, but the two have only been in the music business together for the last five.

Trios for Two performs chamber music which is typically done by a small group, usually duos or trios, that does not have a conductor to keep the musicians on beat. With this in mind, Holt said it is great working with Gebrian because she is very observant and reacts to his movements while performing.

“I am sometimes stuck in my own world when performing so it is very important that Molly is so good at listening and adjusting to me when necessary,” Holt said.

Gebrian said working with Holt is enjoyable because they both have similar views when approaching music, which makes it easy to trust him during performances and when making musical decisions during rehearsals.

“I really trust him and I know the performance will be successful,” Gebrian said. “I don’t worry that if something goes wrong, things will fall apart and that gives me a lot of peace of mind.”

The pieces Gebrian and Holt played are created specifically for them by composers they know. Because Holt is the only pianist who is also a professional percussionist, the pieces are tailored to his abilities.

On average, Holt said he is capable of playing roughly a dozen instruments, combining his talent on the piano and a variety of percussion instruments. To make this easier, he uses foot pedals for some of his instruments leaving his hands free to play others.

The performance Sunday consisted of five pieces written by different composers exclusively for Trios for Two. The final piece “Black and White” was written in 2015 by Assistant Professor of music Chiayu Hsu.

Angelina Mort, junior criminal justice student, said it was her first time seeing them perform and she really enjoyed their distinctive sound.

“They are both very talented,” Mort said. “I have never heard anything like that before and it was very unique.”

Trios for Two is performing for four additional colleges this week: the University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Lawrence University and University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

Holt said they hope to release their CD officially to the public next year. Music and art student Siri Stensberg designed the cover art for the Trios for Two CD.

With more performances and new pieces yet to come, Holt said they are eager to become more familiar with the music and reach a larger audience.

“We are just really excited to play this music more and more,” Holt said. “In the end, we want to expose more people to this kind of crazy, weird, interesting and unexpected music.”