Two decades done. Wow!
I’m currently sitting in my office thinking to myself, “My goodness, I can’t believe I am celebrating twenty years of living today.” It’s amazing to know that I’ve been blessed with the chance to celebrate two decades’ worth of music, miracles, and memories.
I was born in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 19, 1996. Life there in the northern part of the city was relatively quiet. I attended kindergarten at a school near my house, and my family faithfully attended a church where I first was introduced to full-scale stage productions every Christmas, Easter, and Fourth of July.
My earliest memories are of me playing at my family’s piano, exploring the sounds of every key and wondering what it would be like to play them as well as some of our friends could play it or as well as the people on a certain television show on PBS called The Lawrence Welk Show could play it. When my family decided to move back to Florida, my mother felt that private piano lessons would be a healthy thing for me to pursue and would provide me an avenue with which I could connect with the new friends I’d make in my new hometown. I was six years old at the time and I’ve never regretted a single minute of those lessons since, especially now when looking back fourteen years later.
I am forever grateful for the opportunities I was afforded to study under four fantastic piano instructors: Ms. Rhonda, my very first teacher; Mrs. Debra Betz, my elementary teacher; Dr. Sandra Roberts, my elementary, middle, and high school instructor whom I studied with more than any other; and Dr. Mark Crawford, a fantastically gifted and insightful college piano professor with whom I studied for a year in undergrad. I also wish to applaud the brief yet equally important influences of Mr. Ackerman, band director at Jefferson Davis Middle School in Jacksonville, Florida; and the late Russell B. Shampine, my tenacious clarinet instructor who I very much admired for his passion and his talent. Oh, and I would like to mention Joan Cordell, my high school chorus director, as well. She played a very important role in my musical life.
My relatively short life has been punctuated by incredible moments of triumph and tragedy. By the grace of God, I overcame several childhood inhibitions and have been blessed to live a healthy life. I was blessed to be born in the beautiful desert land of Phoenix and to experience the grandeur of the Grand Canyon State. I also recognize the great blessing it was to move to Florida. It was here where I truly grew up. It was here where I built great relationships with many people who have remained supportive of my endeavors over the years, and to all of you I am incredibly thankful.
One of the hardest moments of my life was the time when I found out my father had passed away. I was eight years old in the second grade. My mother picked me up from my class end-of-the-year party and walked me outside to the edge of the sidewalk by the parking lot and quietly told me what had happened that morning. There were no tears. Just silence. My father had been in the hospital for a few weeks by that point, so we weren’t completely taken by surprise yet we weren’t expecting his life to end so abruptly. Everyone including the doctors had expected him to survive, but it turns out the Lord had other plans.
Inspired by my father’s legacy, I wanted to be just as successful as he had been in life. My father graduated from high school at the age of sixteen. I enjoyed learning, and I knew deep down if I applied myself hard enough, I could achieve that very same thing he did. With God and my mother’s help, I conquered my goal. I graduated from high school at the age of sixteen, just like my father had, yet unlike him I also earned my Associate’s degree at the same time, thanks to the dual enrollment program available at my school which was something that hadn’t existed during my father’s years in school.
When I completed that one goal, I didn’t stop. There were many more opportunities to be had and it was up to me to find them, pursue them, and achieve them. I completed my Bachelor’s degree at eighteen, the youngest person to graduate from Trinity Baptist College. In music, I was inspired by my role models to improve my talents. I had always wanted to play the original version of Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin. I had been told by some that one day when I was older I would be able to play it. In the meantime, however, they said I needed to be patient, and wait, and to work on other things. I realized that what they meant to say was that when I had achieved a greater mastery of my piano playing skills, I could handle such a more difficult piece; therefore, I worked tirelessly to improve. I refused to give up. I refused to give in to discouragement. Finally, by the time I was twelve years old, I had mastered and memorized the original version of Maple Leaf Rag in its entirety and went on to receive a superior rating for my performance of the piece in a competition hosted at the University of North Florida. A year later, I would perform it on a field trip at the Florida Governor’s Mansion on the beautiful grand piano housed at the executive residence just outside the governor’s study.
I never realized how far I would go with my music before I turned twenty. I always knew I would probably perform in concerts from time to time, and once I accepted my first church pianist position I figured I might have a chance to tour a little bit within the church circuit in my area. As time wore on, I discovered that my plans were too constricting for someone with my personality. I’ve always had a penchant for big, bold moves. In 2014 I knew it was time to take one of those steps, so by faith I launched my professional music career and surrendered myself to the cause of music and to the furtherance of the arts—and kaboom! My life has soared from there.
A year ago, I never could have imagined where my debut album The Pirates of Penzance: Revamped and Revisited would take me. I knew that producing an album was a major feat in and of itself; but I also realized that if I ever wanted to make a commercial success of it, I needed to find a way to make it one. I learned in college about the power of networking, so I put my knowledge to the test to see where it would lead. Let me say right now networking worked wonders, because today I can honestly report that I have lately built friendships with some of the greatest people of the Broadway stage and the silver screen. Because of those steps of faith I took when I was six, and when I was twelve, and when I was sixteen, and when I was eighteen—I’m safely outside of my comfort zone and have stepped into the vast expanse of opportunity.
I pray I never lose that drive for dreaming. I pray that you don’t either. If there is one thing I wish to accomplish in my life on earth, it is to inspire others to seek bigger and better things. I don’t want to be an isolated case. I want everyone to achieve their dreams and then find new dreams and achieve those too. Today I met a girl at the photography studio I visited for my press photos. When she found out who I was and what I did, she became so excited because she had attended a school where they put on The Pirates of Penzance. She told me how badly she wanted to have a part in the show, but unfortunately she never made the cut. She has no hard feelings about the outcome—she was happy for all those in the show and enjoyed the performance—but she still wishes she had been in the program. I told her don’t give up hope. Perhaps one day someone will put on the show again where she can try out again and make it into the program.
Don’t limit yourself to the things you’re 100% certain about. Research those things you’re not 100% sure about so that you can be 100% sure about them either favorably or otherwise. True, there are doors at times which are best left closed for whatever the reason, but unless you research them how will you know which ones are appropriate for you? That’s the only way to advance in this world. Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. You’ll enjoy your life a little more if you do. Remember, whatever things are honest, good, and pure are worthy of our attentions and worthy for us to reflect on.
Thanks again to everyone for all the wonderful birthday wishes. Have a beautiful night, and I look forward to sharing more of my musical life with you very soon!
Adrian D. Holmes
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