Dwight “Buzz” Holmes, singer, conductor and educator, is part of Idyllwild’s musical history. Photo by Marshall Smith
Dwight “Buzz” Holmes, singer, conductor and educator, is part of Idyllwild’s musical history.
Photo by Marshall Smith

Dwight “Buzz” Holmes is part of a distinguished lineage in Idyllwild’s musical history, part of a legacy begun when his father, Robert Evans Holmes, began conducting the Festival Choir at Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts in 1957 and formed the Idyllwild Master Chorale in 1975. Holmes Amphitheatre at Idyllwild Arts, the successor to ISOMATA, is named after Robert Evans Holmes. And Buzz was connected to the seminal years of ISOMATA, singing in the Youth and Festival choirs at a time when legends Pete Seeger, Meredith Willson, Ansel Adams and Bella Lewitsky were on campus and Idyllwild was becoming the arts destination it is today.

Buzz was not only his father’s son but also his student. Bob Holmes was supervisor of music and director of choral groups at Beverly Hills High. Buzz studied under his father and sang with his father’s most elite group, the Beverly Hills High School Madrigal Singers, a group of 16 who toured internationally. “That time spanned a lot of different artists that would go on to work on Broadway and in movies and television, including Richard Dreyfuss, Alfred Brooks, Joanna Gleason, Rob Reiner and Carol White,” said Buzz. Dreyfuss later starred in “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” inspired, so Dreyfuss said, by his having studied under the elder Holmes. “It was such an amazing time, so much creative energy,” said Buzz of his years at BHHS.

Buzz graduated in 1967, moving on to the University of Southern California where he studied composition and theory under Morton Lauridsen, now recognized as one the greatest contemporary choral composers. He also studied counterpoint and orchestration privately with Lauridsen. Buzz described a first significant meeting with his wife Julie in one of Lauridsen’s music theory classes. “Julie was in the same class,” he remembered. “Over this 12-bar rest I asked her if she wanted to go to see Alice Cooper at the Whiskey.” She accepted.

While at USC, Buzz was lead singer in a rock group, “Generation,” in which Ray Brown Jr. played. He graduated in 1972 and before starting a teaching career, served as director for the first staged version of the rock opera “Tommy” by the English rock group The Who. “I had this interesting conversation with Roger Daltry about who should play Tommy in the movie,” said Buzz. “He kept suggesting people and I said, ‘Why don’t you play him?’ and he eventually did.”

Julie and Buzz Holmes in their early years. Photo courtesy Buzz Holmes

Holmes began his teaching career in South Los Angeles. “It was an interesting time, he recalled. I had to learn to communicate and bring my students along. I learned so much from them.” Later, in another connection with his father, he taught at Hollywood High where his father had previously taught. In 1977, he returned to ISOMATA. “They wanted me to come up to help develop the Summer Program and coordinate student life,” he said. “I did a lot of recruiting for them in Southern California. Those years broadened my abilities to deal with challenging situations.”

Buzz began teaching music at Idyllwild School in 1995 and also serves as supervisor of music for Hemet Unified School District’s four high schools, four middle schools, three K-8 schools and 11 elementary schools. He assumed the mantle of conductor of the Idyllwild Master Chorale after his father’s retirement. The chorale is now celebrating its 40th anniversary and will present its winter concert in the new Lowman Concert Hall on the Idyllwild Arts campus. He has served on the board of governors for Idyllwild Arts, continuing the Holmes legacy connection.

He will retire this year from teaching and is now dedicated to perpetuating Idyllwild’s reputation as an arts destination — both for performing and fine arts. “It’s important what we do to nurture arts in this town,” he stressed. “We need a coordinated arts strategy, a chamber of commerce for the arts that promotes Idyllwild as an arts destination,” said Holmes. “I think there is magic in this place. It’s what drew me here as a young kid. There’s talent here and we need both venues and programs to develop that talent.”

For more about Holmes and the Idyllwild Master Chorale see www.idyllwildmasterchorale.org.