During the convocation for the class of 2021, Dr. Holly Hubbs received the Award for Excellence in First-Year Advising. The award is given to a professor who shows distinction in first-year advising; it is given based on student nominations and selected from a committee of past winners. Hubbs has been a professor in the music department since 2003, guiding and leading students in ensembles and in the classroom. She was surprised and thrilled to receive this year’s award.
Hubbs grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and has loved music ever since her parents got her started on the piano at six years old.
“I got to the age to do band,” said Hubbs, “and I wanted to play the saxophone, and I was small so they wanted me to play the clarinet and I was like, ‘No, I want to play the saxophone.” Thanks to her supportive parents, “I went home one day and there was a saxophone sitting on the kitchen table.”
From childhood, Hubbs’ love for music never ceased. “I just never stopped, I always knew that was what I wanted to do. I played piano through undergraduate school and obviously still play saxophone and always wanted to be a teacher.”
Hubbs earned her degrees for music education from Quincy University and Western Illinois University, and her Doctor of Arts degree from Ball State University in saxophone performance. She was a public-school band director for a few years before deciding that she wanted to shift to college education. She has been at Ursinus ever since.
In her speech at the convocation concerning the award, Assistant Dean of Students, Missy Bryant, spoke of Hubbs’ accomplishments as a performer, from playing all over the United States and Europe as well as local venues in the Philadelphia area. Over the years Hubbs has released four CDs: “Crossing the Break,” “Transcriptions,” “The Music of Kathryne Thompson,” and “Mosaic Saxophone Quartet.” While Hubbs said she has not traveled since her years in a professional big band, the professional quartet she plays in, called the Junction Saxophone Quartet, is trying to organize a European tour for next summer.
When asked about her favorite places she has performed, Hubbs mentioned both the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands and the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.
Hubbs said, “It’s just amazing…the chance to be in that milieu of jazz fans in this city just teeming with all these people who love jazz music.”
Despite the beauty of the place and people, Hubbs explained that “It’s hard work, because you’re also playing a lot, you’re moving equipment, you’re always setting up, you’re always taking down and it’s frustrating because when you’re touring you want to stay and see Heidelberg castle but you have to get on the bus.”
Along with her love of traveling and performing, Hubbs enjoys working with her students and the relationships she has built with them.
“I love first-year advising because the first year can be such a transformation,” said Hubbs, “because you meet these students actually when they’re still in high school… so you meet them and start to get to know them and then by the time someone’s leaving you, which is declaring their major in the later part of the spring semester, this person who was nervous and didn’t know their way around and maybe timid or just sort of maybe a little homesick at the beginning of the year, they just transformed into these Ursinus students, who often very much love it here.”
Hubbs also loves the opportunity to meet students from various disciplines as her first-year advisees, it provides “the chance to connect with students who you may actually never see again except for coming back to visit you because you have a good relationship, but as far as [being] a professor is concerned, you would never have in a class.”
The presentation of the Award for Excellence in First-Year Advising shows that the students appreciate Hubbs’ dedication to her students.
As Bryant read in her presentation speech, one nominator said, “[Hubbs is an] outstanding, caring person as well as adviser. She truly cares about the success of her students and encourages them to pursue their interests.”
Another student added “I went into freshman year an anxious only child who had never been away from her parents for over a week and had no idea how I was going to handle the transition here. Knowing that fear, from the very beginning, Dr. Hubbs made it well known that I was welcome in her office at any time, that I could email her or just talk to her about anything and everything. She said she would be my new mom on campus and she fulfilled that duty so spectacularly and beautifully.”