You may have heard this before, “If you are lucky enough to do what you love, your job won’t feel like a job, and you will be very fortunate.”
Guitarist and 1983 Monroe Alumnus Rick Holmstrom considers himself fortunate. While he admits there are some downsides to being a career musician–like grueling travel schedules and time away from his family–he’s doing what he loves.
Rick was introduced to music at an early age. His mother, Diane Holmstrom, took him to see the Beatles movie "Help!" when he only a few months old, and his father, Larry Holmstrom ‘61 was a local DJ, so their home was filled with records.
Rick always had a guitar in his room, but doesn’t remember being particularly fond of it. “It was just another toy in my room,” says Rick.
It wasn’t until his third grade teacher, Joan Rorro, taught him a few chords that he became interested in playing. The initial guitar affair didn’t last much beyond the third grade for a couple of reasons: 1. Rick became very interested in basketball and 2. playing guitar seemed daunting. As a kid, he thought, “Forget it; how could I compete with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen?”
Rick played basketball at Monroe and has fond memories of the team winning the state tournament. “I was a freshman–5’6” and 95 pounds–so while I didn’t play much, I sure was proud of our team.”
After graduation, Rick wanted to get away for awhile. He set off for University of Redlands in California.
College brought about many life changes. During his sophomore year, Rick met his future wife, Toni, in the dorm laundry room. She took him for a ride around campus on her electric scooter and the rest is history.
Rick picked up the guitar again his senior year of college. When the guitarist in his friends’ band graduated, they asked him to play.
“I remember playing at a house party on campus,” Rick says. “People were dancing to the music–it was a fantastic feeling. I was hooked.”
Rick has played with blues gospel singer Mavis Staples for the past 11 years. He spends about half of the year on the road.
“If there’s one thing I’ve done, it’s a lot of traveling,” he says. “Travel has given me the opportunity to see what the world is really like, to experience different cultures, and to recognize that as humans, we’re really not that different.” He encourages everyone, especially students, to travel more.
Rick, Toni and their two daughters, Lusa (14) and Ellie (11), live in Venice Beach, California. They come back to Alaska in the summers for a week or so to unwind at their Harding Lake cabin.