By Kashyah Wiliams
Quiana Holmes, 22, is a native from Rome, New York, and aunt of the author. Holmes is a 2017 graduate from Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. She earned a bachelor’s degree in professional music and minor in theater. Holmes is currently on Broadway touring for the role of Mary Wilson as well as the understudy for Diana Ross in the hit musical Motown the Musical.
For the 2017 Berklee Commencement Concert, which took place at the Agganis Arena in Boston, Holmes paid tribute to five-time Grammy Award winner Lionel Richie by performing “Three Times a Lady.” Richie was present at the Commencement Concert as well as the graduation ceremony, which took place on May 12, 2017. Richie was just one among many prominent figures in attendance at the concert. Other notable guests include Neil Portnow, the President of the Recording Academy, and three-time Grammy award-winning artist Lucinda Williams.
Post-graduation, Holmes set out to find an agent to begin her professional career. She was fortunate enough to quickly find one based out of Los Angeles, who would soon have auditions lined up for her. Immediately after graduation, Holmes set out to begin auditioning for shows to kickstart her professional musical theater career.
When asked when she knew she wanted to go to college to pursue a music career, Holmes says, “Going into Berklee, I really wanted to get into the musical theater scene because coming from high school, that’s really all I knew. I loved musical theater and I really felt at home at the theater.” Holmes soon landed the role of Deena Jones for Berklee’s Production of Dream Girls, which would ultimately lend itself to her making her first professional debut as Dorothy in Fiddlehead Theater Company’s production of The Wiz. It was after landing the role of Deena Jones in Berklee’s production of Dream Girls when Holmes made the ultimate decision to pursue a minor in drama to be a professional in musical theater.
But this is not the first tour for the young starlet. Holmes’s first tour was for Dancing In the Streets, which is a Motown review show; it was a concert that featured all of Motown’s greatest hits—everything from the Supremes to Marvin Gaye. Holmes sang as the role of the young Diana Ross in The Supremes. The difference between the current Broadway touring show and the Motown review is that the Broadway show tells the story of how Berry Gordy formed and built Motown Records. The Motown review production has all of the same music from the show from hit artists including The Temptations and Smokey Robinson. Another difference is that the Motown review tour was roughly 11 weeks. The current Broadway tour is 9 months.
Immediately after graduation, Holmes sent her manager a video reel, which featured all of the productions and works she has been involved in, everything from singing, acting, to dancing. Holmes auditioned at Pearl Studios located in New York City. It took six days for her to be finished with auditions after much traveling back and forth from Boston. After the sixth day, Holmes received the call that she had earned the part of Mary Wilson.
When asked about tour life is and how she’s adjusting to it, Holmes says, “Tour life is amazing. I get to see so many places, and I am so thankful to be able to meet so many people who are changed by the show every single night. They come to the stage door and they say how much we have changed their lives and that is an amazing experience… We’re hitting a lot of smaller towns that never get to see Broadway shows, and we’re sending the message of love and unity to those who need it. It feels like a vacation to be completely honest, I feel spoiled. Adjusting to tour life is something that I am still doing. It is hard, but communication is all through the phone. I am more of a face to face person. I am really thankful for technology today!”
Holmes’s two favorite places that she has visited so far are Colorado and Chicago. “Chicago was where we opened and it’s really sentimental to me because that is where my cousin Isaac Bennett lives, and he was the first person to see the show. The crowd was amazing, they cheered, sang, and screamed for us. It was life-changing. That was the turning point for me, I knew I wanted to be on stage for the rest of my life. Colorado because it’s beautiful, it’s full of nature, the mountains are gorgeous, and the air is so refreshing.”
Holmes cites her favorite role thus far is Dorothy from The Fiddlehead Theater Company The Wiz. “It was my first professional role. I love the show and the story. That’s where it really started for me. It’s just something about that story of a girl being lost and finding herself and finding what she loves. I really responded to that story because that’s me. I look back on high school to me questioning what I was going to do with my life and figure out that one thing that was going to make me happy. Going through that journey and realizing that it was music all along, that was something that really resonated with me.”
Music, music, and more music. The music industry was not always on the forefront for Holmes. Although she is credited with being in numerous musical groups as well as musical shows throughout her school years, Holmes first set her sights on majoring in forensic science. It was not until the end of her senior year where she was steered in the direction of music by instructors and loved ones. After all, that is what she spent the most time doing. From being involved in Rome Free Academy’s Marching Band to singing groups such as Treble and Jazz Choir, Holmes was devoted to music.
With much admiration and love, Holmes credits her mother, Evangelist Beverly Holmes, for being the main person to influence her on her musical endeavors. Evangelist Beverly Holmes is a biblical playwright and Quiana would receive much of her experience in acting and singing in the productions that her mother would put on.