Eric Bolton remembers being given the solo in “In Idyllwild” as part of four summers with the ISOMATA music program. He sang under the direction of Robert Evans Holmes for whom the Idyllwild Arts amphitheater is named.
Now as a recent full-time resident of Idyllwild, he is singing under the direction of Dwight “Buzz” Holmes, Robert Evans Holmes’ son, as part of the Idyllwild Master Chorale. And for attendees drawn to this must-attend upcoming Christmas concert, you’ll be able to hear Bolton once again in solo form, at his tenor-level best.
In a sense, he has found his way home.
In the years from high school and ISOMATA until today, Bolton developed a successful career as an actor in Hollywood. Later, after receiving a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Utah, Bolton became a CEO of an addiction treatment facility in Napa Valley, a field in which he is still working — now as a clinic director of the Desert Comprehensive Treatment Center in Palm Springs.
On his resume, summarizing his job responsibilities and professional management approach as CEO of Duffy’s Napa Valley Rehab, regarded as Northern California’s top drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility, Bolton said, “I work to motivate for excellence and accuracy, though leave plenty of room for the humanness of others and myself. I practice a
servant leadership approach, though I fully understand how to implement disciplinary action when necessary and do so with an emphasis on treating each individual with respect, dignity and fairness.” Bolton’s words about his work ethic in many ways define him — a soft-spoken gentleman with extraordinary ability who is defined by his decency and respect for others..
Recalling his introduction to Idyllwild during those ISOMATA summers, Bolton said, “It altered who I am and changed my life for the better. We were learning to sing such challenging music and perfecting it in such a short amount of time. And the setting in which we were singing, often outdoors in Studio D, was magical.”
Sometimes in growing up, one is shaped by seminal events. For West Covina native Bolton, it was singing with his high school men’s glee club and his four summers at ISOMATA. Singing opened a door to a career as an actor in stage, television and movies in Hollywood.
As a high school student, he was a member of The Young Americans, a highly popular singing and dancing ensemble that toured, did television and performed in major concerts. He worked at Disneyland playing famous Disney characters, his favorite being Pluto.
In performance vernacular, Bolton “made some noise” in the business, finding recurring work in television on series “General Hospital,” “Boston Legal,” “Murphy Brown,” “Port Charles” and “Melrose Place.” He was a founding member of a highly acclaimed Los Angeles-based theater troupe, the Friends and Artists Theatre Ensemble (F.A.T.E) helmed by acting coach Sal Romeo who became a trusted friend and mentor to Bolton. “We did socially relevant theater,” said Bolton.
He took classes at The Groundlings and at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, New York. He graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Theatre, with a focus in acting and directing, from California State University, Los Angeles.
Along the way, through his regular work on screen and stage, Bolton acquired the prized guild cards, Screen Actors Guild (SAG), American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and Actor’s Equity Association (AEA). A bit of a Renaissance man, Bolton wrote music for a full-length musical and a children’s musical that toured Los Angeles schools.
He’s been in commercials for Time Warner Cable and 7-Up, has done radio announcing for public radio station KPCC and also has done voice-over work.
Bolton served in various management capacities for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Center Theatre Group, where he honed skills in customer service, team building and employee conflict resolution.
He was part of a delegation to Geneva, Switzerland, advocating for equal rights for people with disabilities. His work in entertainment allowed him to rub shoulders with some of his heroes — Stephen Sondheim, Ram Dass and the late Dr. Leo Busacaglia. “I once shared ice cream with Shirley MacLaine,” he recalled.
Even with a successful career in Hollywood and in social work in Northern California, the pull of Idyllwild was always present. “I sang as an alumnus in the choir for the ISOMATA/Idyllwild Arts 50th anniversary concert,” he said.
When a change in his personal life prompted a move, Bolton relocated from Northern California to Idyllwild, taking up his job as clinic director in Palm Springs.
Looking back on his transition from entertainment to social work, Bolton recalled, “I had started to feel it was too much about me [being a performer]. I’ve always wanted to be of service and so the change of going back to school for a career in social work seemed right.”
Living in Idyllwild also seems right for Bolton. “Idyllwild is a place of healing and a community of artists,” he noted. “My experience at ISOMATA opened me up to these feelings. I think that’s what drew me back here.”
Bolton is exploring how to be of service in Idyllwild — what nonprofits or organizations he can join or support that further integrate him into the life of Idyllwild.
Bolton’s career path has brought him success and professional fulfillment that many long for, but few attain. Yet there is about him an essential humility and decency. He may have “made noise” in Hollywood and business, but he has found a time and place of quiet and mindfulness at this point in his life. “I’m starting to discover a rich spiritual practice. And I’m starting to discover the richness of Idyllwild.”