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Local student to jazz it up in Disney

By Staff | Oct 13, 2017

Chronicle photo by Toni Milbourne Matt Holmes began playing the bass in middle school, developing a love for the instrument that is guiding his future path.

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION – Jefferson High School senior Matt Holmes will be on his way to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, to serve as the sole bass player in the National Association for Music Education’s All National Jazz Honor Ensemble on Nov. 26-29.

Holmes, who plays bass for Jefferson High’s jazz band as well as in his own band, explained that he had submitted a video audition for the ensemble at the encouragement of his band teacher, JP Lynch.

“The ensemble features the best jazz kids in the country,” Holmes said. While he does not know how many others submitted tapes to play bass, he was the only student selected. He joins 19 other jazz students from around the country to play in Florida.

Holmes said he didn’t always play the bass. In fact, when he started band back in fifth grade, he said he played the trumpet. He carried that over to sixth grade at Harpers Ferry Middle School, even though, he said, he didn’t really like the trumpet.

At that point, his band teacher, Mr. Charles Wall, was looking for a bass guitar player and suggested Holmes try that. That instrument was much better and Holmes played that, adding the upright bass in eighth grade, “Because Mr. Wall wanted me to,” he said.

Crediting Wall, Holmes said if he had not switched instruments, he probably would have dropped band. Instead, he not only learned the bass – guitar and upright – he also learned to play the tuba, again, because Mr. Wall needed someone to play. Holmes carried that ability over to his high school band program where he plays sousaphone in the marching band.

But, with those early exposures to the jazz instruments, Holmes found his passion in life.

“I like bass,” he said. “I love jazz, the freedom that comes with it. It gives me a feeling like nothing else.”

Holmes so loves playing that he plans to pursue a career in music to teach jazz at the university level.

“I try to do as much practice as possible,” Holmes said. “My goal is to put in three to four hours a day.”

All of that practice has allowed Holmes the opportunity to play in variety of venues. He has played with the Charles Washington Symphony Orchestra, the Prep Orchestra at Shepherd University, the Senior Orchestra, also at Shepherd. He has played in two different venues in New Orleans, at the Kennedy Center and will play in Dallas in the upcoming months.

Working an internship, starting at age 13, at Ellsworth Music in Ranson, helped open doors to many of these opportunities.

Holmes’ mother, Tasia, credits Brian Ellsworth who helped guide Matt into many of the auditions to increase his exposure as a jazz musician. She also said that both Mr. Wall and Mr. Lynch were key in encouraging Matt in his playing.

“The support and backing of all of his teachers, and Matt Lewis, his bass lesson instructor,” Tasia said. “I was clueless back in fifth grade as a new band mom. But, it’s been an amazing ride.”

Holmes fully admits that he is driven to succeed in his music.

“It’s all I do other than school,” he said. “It’s what I’m doing most of the time.”

Holmes plays gigs at local venues quite frequently and can often be found at Domestic or Town Run Brewing in Shepherdstown.

“Matthew is a very talented musician who is passionate about his craft. He works to be the best that he can be,” Lynch said.