Vandoren Artist Profile: Michael Holmes

Date Posted: January 18, 2018

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When did you decide you wanted to be a musician?

I was in fourth grade and my sister was joining band around this same time. We were doing recorder lessons when we were in elementary school and I thought it was so fun to play really fast scales on the recorder. My sister really wanted to play the saxophone, but my parents said they couldn’t afford it and she had to play the trumpet. I, being me, decided that I would take it upon myself to find a saxophone, so I looked in newspapers from around the Midwest to see if I could find a used saxophone that was less expensive than the trumpet that my family purchased for my sister. Of course, I was able to find something and shortly there after a shiny saxophone arrived to my home in Ohio. I had never played a saxophone, but I figured out how to put it together, put a reed on (probably without wetting it) and began to play… I never looked back.


Who have been some of the most influential people in your life?

There are so many from my formative years as a young musician: My High School Choir teacher (David Inbody) who taught me how to use my ears, my High School Band teacher (Rick Eakin) who taught me how to be a leader, my first private lesson teacher (Mr. Richard Reamsnyder) who expertly taught me the fundamentals. And then there are my major mentors/teachers that taught me so much as a young saxophonist: Dr. John Sampen, from Bowling Green State University. John was my teacher starting in 8th grade, and I was fortunate enough to study with him all the way through my undergraduate degree… 8 years, wow that is a lot of time with such an incredible pedagogue. Professor Debra Richtmeyer from the University of Illinois. Debra was my teacher for my masters and doctorate, and she taught me how to use my ears and air in a completely new way – what a brilliant musician and teacher. In later years, I was fortunate enough to be a colleague of Debra’s at the University of Illinois where I was able to teach along side her.


As for people that I’ve listened to, or learned from over the years, I’m really influenced by a lot of the greats, not only classically with saxophonists like Jean-Marie Londeix, Eugene Rousseau, Claude Delangle Jean-Yves Fourmeau, Fred Hemke, Donald Sinta, Marcel Mule, and many of the other greats. But I’m also influenced by the jazz greats too: Cannonball Adderly, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt, any many other. Not to mention countless orchestral recordings, string quartet recordings, and a myriad that helped train my ears. Those are my big influences.


Holmes Vap Piece 1

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a musician and how have you overcome them?

Being a musician is not a one-step process. It’s not a one-size fits all. Wrapping my mind around the fact that you may be a teacher, a performer, as well as many other things.  I have been fortunate to work on the business side of the music industry, and on the administrative side. Once I got my head wrapped around that it’s not a one-size fits all and there’s an entire gamut of things you can do as a musician, I think that’s when the challenge became less of a struggle and more of an excitement for me. Something that was really exciting to go into – that I really look forward to thriving in the different areas of the music industry.


Do you have any memorable performances?

First would be the BBC Proms with the St. Louis Symphony which was in front of almost 8,000 people. Oh, and I did a concert called the ‘Swire Symphony Under the Stars’ with the Hong Kong Symphony in front of almost 25,000 on the harbor in Hong Kong. I was doing Bolero with them. It was a performance I will never forget.


But, perhaps the most life altering, have been my performaces with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO). The first time I performed with the CSO I did Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet under the director of Maestro Riccardo Muti. I was recently part of a three-week European tour with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Riccardo Muti – sold out performances were held in the Philharmonie de Paris in Paris, France; the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany; the Musik Haas in Aalborg, Denmark; the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy; the Musikverein in Vienna, Austria; and finally, the Festspeilhaus in Baden-Baden, Germany. Only a few months prior to this tour my entire personal life had been turned upside down, and then there I was sitting on some of the world’s greatest stages with the world’s greatest orchestra. This tour showed me that I was a confident musician and that for the first time in many years, that I had regained my own life and my own happiness – music is powerful! The cherry-on-top was that my partner, Brad, flew to Milan, Italy and asked me to marry him. This tour and these performances will always hold a special place in my heart.


What has been the most fulfilling aspect of your life as a musician?

I love performing. I love teaching. I get the same thrill as a teacher when my students are successful, as I do when I get to stand on stage doing a great performance. I love travelling and I love getting to see the world through the eyes as a musician. Getting to meet musicians from all around the world and being able to speak the same language as them - when we sit on the stage together we all share that commonality. I adore giving back to students and being able to give them something of myself that I was given at a young age. I think all of those things. The life of a musician is so crazy and wonderful at the same time. Every day is different. I think maybe that’s it. Every day is different in the way that’s so exciting. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the entire world because of music – I love that!

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