HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Joshua Elwood started playing the saxophone in the sixth grade and immediately found solace in the sound.

“I noticed that this was a way that I could express myself, blow off steam and really get in touch with my emotions in a healthy way,” Elwood explained.

He is now a West Ottawa High School senior and hopes to keep playing. While he has enjoyed his time in band in school, he is especially excited for a rare opportunity Friday night in Holland. Elwood will play with the Holland Concert Jazz Orchestra as a featured soloist.

As he explained, swing is a music of struggle.

“Anything you know of pain, hope or any of those emotions you can put into the music makes it that much more authentic,” Elwood said.

The pandemic brought that feeling home for Elwood, who had to switch to online schooling and saw his grades suffer.

“I always had pretty good grades, so that was pretty frustrating to me,” he said.

Joshua poured himself into his music.

“That’s part of why I’m so glad to be back playing (swing). It’s a social music,” he said.

Elwood won a competition to earn his solo spot with the Holland Concert Jazz Orchestra. He described it as “a professional big band that plays in the Holland area. It’s an area big band, but they swing hard.”

His dad, Charlie Elwood, said he and Joshua’s mom are extremely proud of him.

“I just want to back him up and support him on this really interesting journey he’s taking,” his dad said.  

Elwood described his first taste of playing with professionals as “a kick in the butt, but a great experience,” in reference to how good the musicians are. He hopes his journey will take him back to the classroom one day as a teacher.

“Hopefully, I inspire students the same way my teacher inspired me,” he said.

The Jazz Orchestra will play Friday at 7 p.m. at the Park Theatre in Holland. Tickets are available online.