We’ve all heard the term, “evergreen,” but Barb Holmes’ life inspires another term: “ever-young.” That’s because Barb, despite retiring in 2001 from a 35-year career in education, is always taking on new tasks and challenges to learn and grow.
Now in her third year as an Orchestra Hall usher, Barb’s largest exposure to classical music had been high school choir back in Pipestone, Minnesota, many years ago. But Barb’s close proximity to the Hall (she lives near Loring Park) inspired her to become a volunteer usher, a role she will continue for years to come, she says.
It’s the people, musicians and music that keep Barb volunteering. “I love listening to and watching our amazing Orchestra perform, getting to know other ushers, paid and volunteer, and watching the concerts. I especially enjoy watching the percussionists as they go from instrument to instrument.” Barb also says it’s great to work with positive and knowledgeable people.
And there’s definitely a soft spot in Barb’s heart for the seniors she assists. “I am impressed with those patrons who have been coming for years and are having a difficult time with a walker, or are in a wheelchair—but they still come. They really appreciate when ushers take those extra steps to help,” Barb says. “Ushering makes me appreciate seniors and helps me understand where they are and what their pasts have been that they continue making the effort to come.”
You won’t see Barb around Orchestra Hall right now, as she and her husband Tony winter near Phoenix, as do her three siblings. They meet frequently to walk, bike, eat or visit. Barb also enjoys reading—especially mysteries. But she also reads to bond with her nine-year-old granddaughter, who is reading the Keeper of the Lost Cities. So Barb is reading that, too, and appreciating the opportunities to share insights with her granddaughter. Barb has eight grandchildren in all. She became a teacher because she was fascinated with how children’s minds grew and developed. “I was inspired by their curiosity,” Barb says.
In the realm of jobs Barb has held, she vividly recalls her college summer job: cracking eggs for eight hours a day at a poultry company near Pipestone. “We’d crack eggs to fill up a five-gallon container. Four people stood around a big barrel for shells. We cracked the eggs on a sharp blade fastened to a tray. Eggs slid down a tray, shells went into the barrel,” Barb says. “We wore white uniforms. I’d come home with egg on, head to toe! I was not a neat egg cracker. Mom did a lot of laundry!” But Barb said “crackers” of all ages talked all day and got to know one another. “It made me appreciate what people did for a living. We all do what we can to put food on the table and pay the mortgage.”
Near Phoenix, Barb volunteers at a food shelf warehouse where she inspects and sorts canned foods. She’s considered ushering for the Phoenix Orchestra, but when she’s accustomed to walking to Orchestra Hall, the commute in Phoenix isn’t appealing. So she looks forward to her return to the Hall in the spring. Meanwhile, Orchestra Hall users, staff and patrons eagerly await Barb’s return as well. Have fun this winter, Barb, and thanks for all you do for all of us!
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