May Festival names chorus vet new associate director

The Cincinnati May Festival is turning to a staple in the local choral scene to assist Matthew Swanson with his transition to the company’s next director of choruses.

On Tuesday, the company named Jason Alexander Holmes as its new associate director of choruses and director of the youth chorus. He has served as artistic director of the Cincinnati Boychoir since 2019. He also directs Cincinnati’s MLK Chorale and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s Classical Roots Community Chorus.

It’s not clear if Holmes plans to remain with his previous organizations.

Jason Alexander Holmes

In his new role, Holmes will lead and direct the May Festival Youth Chorus, an auditioned, mixed-voice chorus made up of the region’s most talented singers in grades 8-12. Duties will include assisting in the preparations for the May Festival and leading the May Festival’s ongoing community engagement efforts.

Holmes will assume his new position for the 2024-25 season. He’ll take over the role from Swanson who became the May Festival’s new director of choruses in December.

“We are thrilled that Jason Alexander Holmes will be joining the May Festival staff,” Swanson described his new second-in-command.

Swanson and Holmes are not strangers. In fact, Holmes has worked “very closely” with the May Festival team over the years in several multi-chorus collaborations, Swanson said. Previous projects include Mahler’s “Symphony of a Thousand” and the 25 for 25 Commissioning Project as part of the May Festival’s 150th anniversary season, as well as Youth Voices United, a choral festival for local middle and high school students.

Swanson described Holmes as a “skilled musician, an experienced educator and an overall asset to Cincinnati’s choral community.”

“I look forward to all that Jason will do to positively impact the lives of our youth chorus members through singing,” Swanson added.

Meet Jason Alexander Holmes

Holmes has formal training as a pianist, but he has no shortage of experience as a music director either. Over the years he has worked on productions at The Carnegie in Covington, Cincinnati Children’s Theatre and Cincinnati Opera. As a vocalist, he has performed with Cincinnati Fusion Ensemble and several local church choirs.

Before coming to Cincinnati, Holmes served as the director of educational programming at the Boston Children’s Chorus. Prior to his time in New England, he taught music at elementary and secondary public schools in Rochester, N.Y., where he also worked with theater companies and Finger Lakes Opera. He also led the University of Rochester Gospel Choir and Eastman Young Children’s Chorus. Holmes holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Ithaca College.

In the announcement, the May Festival – annual the oldest choral festival in the Western Hemisphere – praised Holmes’ direction of his previous choirs, describing them as “consistently praised for their energetic, unified tone and engaging performance.”

The organization highlighted Holmes’ background of giving workshops and conference sessions on the topic and professional development seminars, schools and conferences. That track record of implementing “culturally responsive practices in music education” as aligning well with its mission, the May Festival statement said.

“Having worked closely with the May Festival in our many collaborations, it is an honor to join the May Festival team,” Holmes said.

“I am grateful for the opportunity,” he continued, “because I believe my personal mission of using choral music to create and share moments of truth and beauty meshes quite well with the May Festival’s mission to engage, energize, and connect our community with the highest quality choral music.”

Cincinnati May Festival

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