Dwight “Buzz” Holmes caps a varied teaching and school management career with retirement after 25 years of teaching music at Idyllwild School.
Photo by Marshall Smith

Dwight “Buzz” Holmes, Idyllwild School music teacher, retired after 25 years from a job that has touched and enriched a generation of Idyllwild School students.

He taught it all: choral music, instrumental music beginning with woodwinds and brass, then later introducing strings. He produced musical theater productions, often involving every student in the middle school in the musicals.

In early 2000, Holmes became the music coordinator for the entire Hemet Unified School District, all the while maintaining his full-time teaching responsibilities at Idyllwild School. As district music coordinator, he drafted a five-year plan for expanding music education in the district.

Asked what he was most proud of from his years at IS and with HUSD, Holmes remembered the student enthusiasm and community involvement surrounding the hugely successful production of “Guys and Dolls,” the growth in musical ability of his students as evidenced by how well they did at either Hemet High School or Idyllwild Arts, and his introduction of string instruments throughout the district. “I’m also proud of having helped to ensure the continuity and sustainability of music instruction at every school in the district,” said Holmes.

Holmes also fondly remembered collaborating with local actor and celebrity Conor O’Farrell in the IS production of “Oliver” in which O’Farrell played Fagin.

Behind the scenes, Holmes helped implement the smARTS program at Idyllwild School, a program unique in the HUSD system, in which local artists come in to work with students at dedicated times in the school day.

Holmes’ teaching career spans a 43-year period, following graduation from the University of Southern California. He taught within the Los Angeles Unified School district from 1973 to 1978.

He was then hired by USC-run Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts (ISOMATA), the progenitor of Idyllwild Arts, to bolster the Summer Program, hire counselors and program support staff for the summer, run the program and conduct the youth choir. He was a key mover in helping to shape the transition from a summer program only to the addition of a residential high school arts academy at a time when the Summer Program alone could not sustain the campus. “I got to witness and be involved with all of that,” said Holmes.

His hiring by ISOMATA represented a return to his roots, since in many ways he was a “child” of the Summer Program. His father, Robert Evans Holmes, was one of the key faculty members at ISOMATA and founder of the Festival Choir, and Holmes grew up in the rarified artistic environment of which his father was such an important part. Holmes is still vitally connected to Idyllwild Arts as vice chair of the school’s Board of Governors.

He also continues as musical director and conductor of the Idyllwild Master Chorale, another legacy from his father who began the community-wide chorale in 1974.

Asked what his plans are, now that he is retired from teaching, Holmes said, “I want to expand the IMC season and continue with my own personal projects and composing.”

His musical legacy continues at Idyllwild School, Idyllwild Arts and in the wider Idyllwild community. His contributions in growing young musicians and providing musical entertainment for the community cannot be overstated.


  1. Congratulations to Buzz Holmes. Hopefully, his legacy at Idyllwild School and in the community will continue unabated. The arts are the backbone of society and enables each of us to succeed where we might otherwise simply wade aimlessly through life.