Army veteran shifts his tune toward education

Produced by University Communications

A few years ago, if you’d told Army veteran and former microbiologist Arron Holland that he would be studying music education at Georgia College & State University, he probably would have laughed.
After 14 years in the military and an injury in Iraq—coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic—Arron was pushed out of the only field he’d known.

And changed the trajectory of his life. 

“Coming to campus was like I was colorblind and seeing through corrective lenses for the first time,” Arron said. “I had been wanting to do it and had never quite gotten there.”

“It was happiness, it was jubilee,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but it lit a fire under my behind. It’s been a rollercoaster since day one, and I’m loving it.”

His life has always thrummed to the rhythm of jazz. Arron started playing trombone in third grade and was raised in a family that cherished music. 

The GCSU Jazz Band plays at Deep Roots in Milledgeville.
The GCSU Jazz Band plays at Deep Roots in Milledgeville.

His father and grandfather were trumpet players, and they put jazz in his blood. Alongside his three siblings, also musicians, Arron would play in church and at family reunions.

At some point, life made an about-face and Arron landed in the military. His original idea of making his passion for music into a career drifted, but the music never stopped. Through the ups and downs, the trombone kept him grounded.

“When I needed to clear my head, whatever it was, I would pick up the trombone and play,” Arron said. “It had always been my go-to, my release.”

Searching for his purpose led him to Georgia College, and to music education.

He’s been introduced to Romantic and Baroque music he’s never heard—but no one made him feel like jazz wasn’t valuable. Any instrument he wants to try is available, doctorate-level faculty are approachable and kind, and he’s meeting a diverse array of his peers. 

After he graduates, Arron hopes to be a band director in Washington County where he lives with his wife and four children. Ultimately, he wants to shape the curriculum of music education in the state and help middle school kids hang on to the dream he’s finally realizing.

He thinks Georgia College can get him there.

“Every decision that you make as a teacher is going to affect your students for the rest of their lives,” Arron said. “That’s what’s best about this curriculum—you can’t have blinders on, because it’s big picture from day one. It pushes you and shapes you.”

“The degree that I’m receiving here and going to use in the field is much more fulfilling than something for financial gain,” he said.