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  • Washington Isaac Holmes

Alumni Spotlight: Washington Isaac Holmes, ’84

Washington Isaac Holmes is a history maker.

Born and raised in Graniteville, South Carolina, Holmes chose the University of South Carolina because he was the recipient of a full scholarship from the Graniteville Company and he chose the School of Music because of the people who taught, encouraged and believed in his talents as both a musician and singer.

James Copenhaver, the USC Marching Band Director from 1976 to 2010, believed in Holmes so much that he chose him to be a member of the very first trio of Drum Majors of The Carolina Band. Not only was this a first time there were three Drum Majors, but Holmes was USC’s very first Black Drum Major, solidifying his place in history.

While enrolled in the School of Music, Holmes continued to forge relationships with his professors and cites voice faculty Don Gray, Arpad Darasz and Laury Christy as those who inspired his talent as a baritone while performing in the concert choir and opera workshop. Additionally, Holmes danced with Susan Anderson and took classes in ballet and modern dance at USC.

Some of Holmes’ best memories of life as a USC music student involved travel abroad. He states that there is no better way to learn a language and a culture than by immersing in it completely. That experience allows singers to be able to perform in Italian, German, French or any other language while getting the full flavor of the culture one is portraying as the character. Holmes also advises current students to “get in the piano studio, learn theory, and understand that your job will not ever simply be: singer.”

Since graduating from USC in 1984, Holmes has had a multifaceted and storied career in the arts as a professor, directing choir director, and a performer as soloist, dancer, instrumentalist, and chorister in the US, Hong Kong, Russia, South Korea, Germany, France, Great Britain, Holland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Belgium. Most recently, Holmes performed the titular role in Sweeney Todd with the Athens (GA) Creative Theater. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Michigan and is working towards a doctorate.

Holmes says that his enrollment at USC was the most important time in his life for musical development, he made great friends, learned from some of the best professors, and made history.

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