April 4, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.

Nashville stars to take stage at WILLow LeaVes

By By Jennifer [email protected]

Nashville recording artists Danika Holmes and Jeb Hart will perform a special one-night concert with fifth graders from Hope Elementary School this Saturday at WILLow LeaVes of Hope.

Nancy Banta, music aide with Hope Elementary School, reached out to Holmes nearly one year ago after discovering some of Holmes' music on YouTube. Initially in search of something a little out-of-the-ordinary for her students to perform, Banta says she was immediately interested in Holmes' Christmas song, "Come Lucky for Me."

Banta says she has an appreciation for traditional Christmas music, but it's also nice to step out of the norm. And taking that step is something her students don't mind doing with her. She says she looks for original music when perusing the Internet seeking unique pieces for her students to perform. And it was the unique sound of Holmes and Hart that caught Banta's attention.

"Some of the songs are kind of bluesy and jazzy," Banta says. "And more acoustic and I love acoustic. That's what caught my ear, too."

The two collaborated and decided to hold a holiday concert at WILLow LeaVes of Hope.

With their debut performance just days away, Banta says the students are enthralled to take the stage with Holmes and Hart Saturday evening.

Likewise, Holmes and Hart are excited to perform with the students. After all, this is the first time the pair has done a performance like this.

Holmes, a former teacher, says playing small venues like WILLow LeaVes of Hope offers great opportunities to make connections with the audience one may not have when performing for larger crowds.

Both she and Hart strongly believe in music education and, if given the chance, hope to impress upon the children the importance of not only embracing the power of music but also following one's dreams.

Holmes recalls watching her parents always planning and discussing what they would do in retirement. Sadly, her father died of cancer in his early 50s -- long before he was able to retire. The loss of her father really impacted Holmes making her take a step back to reevaluate her life's path.

"You don't know when your time is coming," she says. "I really needed to be doing something with my life that I felt passionate about. I worked with a lot of great teachers but, to be honest, all the great teachers inspired me to quit. I didn't have that passion for teaching, but I had it for music."

The Iowa native says some of the children she meets Saturday evening may not have professional music careers ahead of them, but that is no reason to not play music.

"It's something they can start when they're little and keep playing music til they're old," she says. "Music is absolutely forever."

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