Brian Holmes was born in Washington D. C. He graduated from Punahou School in Honolulu, received a Bachelor’s degree from Pomona College, and earned a PhD in experimental low temperature physics from Boston University. He joined the Physics Department of San Jose State University in 1983, where he taught a course on the physics of music. He retired in 2017. He has given invited lectures on the Physics of brass instruments all over the US. Active as a horn player, he has performed with the San Jose Symphony and Opera San Jose.
He prefers to compose for chorus or solo voice. He has been composer-in-residence to four choruses, including the San Francisco Choral Artists and Vivace Youth Chorus of San Jose. His compositions are published by Thorpe Music, Santa Barbara, Hal Leonard, Roger Dean, Leyerle, Thompson Edition, and Galaxy. He has completed thirty commissioned works and has won a variety of awards and prizes, including the 2012 American Prize in Choral Composition for “Amherst Requiem.” He has a keen interest in Christmas music, having completed over seventy carols, a Christmas Opera, two extended sequences of carols for soloists, chorus, and orchestra, and numerous carols for mixed chorus, accompanied and unaccompanied.