By Janet Goetze
For the Hollywood Star News
Frank Holman started violin lessons in the sixth grade, after a teacher signed up students on the farms and in the small communities around Baker City in the 1930s.
His parents were able to pay for only two years of violin and then trumpet lessons. However, the teacher saw talent in his young student and offered to continue providing instruction if his parents could buy the music books.
Seventy-eight years later, Frank Holman is still playing the violin and the trumpet, and he’s singing, too. But he has decided it’s time to close a chapter in a long musical career in Portland schools and choirs. In June, he retired after 40 years as director of music at Rose City Park United Methodist Church, 5830 N.E. Alameda.
“I’ll be 90 in November,” he said. “My body is telling me it’s time to slow down a little bit.”
At the request of John Green, the church organist who has succeeded Holman as music director, he will lead the brass ensemble. At Holman’s request, he also will sing in the choir, The Grace Notes.
He’ll join the Praise Band on occasion, too, he said, during a week when he was straightening up music in the church’s Holman Music Room, marked with a brass plate outside the door.
“They gave me that honor instead of a raise one year,” he quipped, with a twinkle in his eye.
Stepping down from the church job isn’t his first retirement, of course. He taught instrumental, choral and general music for 12 years at Alameda and Peninsula Elementary Schools. He spent 12 years teaching vocal music at Roosevelt High School and another six at Madison High before retiring in 1988.
Along the way, he was director of the Portland Symphonic Choir from 1963-73. He was tenor soloist at First United Methodist Church from 1953-60, then moved to Westminster Presbyterian Church as tenor soloist. He became Westminster’s music director in 1968 and took the position at Rose City Park Methodist in 1976.
Jack Bell, a member since 1956, said, “Frank has made this last 40 years a very pleasant experience.”
Todd Graham, the worship assistant at the Sunday service celebrating Holman’s 40 years, remembered the director as patient, kind and forgiving in rehearsals. “It’s like taking a stroll with someone special on a not-so-special day,” Graham said, adding, “I consider you my musical father.”
Although Holman’s professional life has been in music, he initially expected to study mathematics at Willamette University. By then, his family had moved from an Eastern Oregon farm to Portland, where Holman attended Washington High School, now known as Revolution Hall, 1300 S.E. Stark Street.
As a high school student, he had put aside his violin and played only the trumpet. Nevertheless, when he arrived at Willamette, he turned from math to music with a concentration on the violin.
He was living with his older brother and sister-in-law when he decided to get reacquainted with his violin. His brother, Holman said, told him to practice in an upstairs bedroom with the door closed. He was afraid the reintroduction wouldn’t be pleasant, Holman said.
After Holman graduated from Willamette, he spent a couple years in the army during the Korean War, but not in Asia. He was in Germany, singing in a soldiers’ concert choir. Returning to the U.S. and choral work at First Methodist, he was encouraged to get his teaching credentials.
“That got me into the teaching game,” he said. “I loved it all those years, and I still love it.”
Holman believes musical activity offers benefits for nearly everyone.
“There’s so much going on in life. I see people who don’t have much joy in life,” he said. “If they can play or sing, I think their life is going to be improved.”
Holman has three sons from his first marriage plus 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He has a daughter and a one-year-old granddaughter with Patricia, his wife of 40 years.
“My doctor says I’ll reach triple digits,” Holman told the congregation during his last service as music director, “so you’ve got ten more years of me.”