Humans of Harker: Playing for a cause

Max Lee plays music for charity

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Humans of Harker: Playing for a cause

“When I perform, I feel liberated. I’m focused on the moment and immersed in the music. I love that feeling of being able to just focus on the music and kind of forget everything else. What's really great to see is when people are really enjoying the music they’re feeling it, dancing, singing along. It was really extraordinary to see that,” Max Lee (12) said.

“When I perform, I feel liberated. I’m focused on the moment and immersed in the music. I love that feeling of being able to just focus on the music and kind of forget everything else. What's really great to see is when people are really enjoying the music they’re feeling it, dancing, singing along. It was really extraordinary to see that,” Max Lee (12) said.

Carter Chadwick

“When I perform, I feel liberated. I’m focused on the moment and immersed in the music. I love that feeling of being able to just focus on the music and kind of forget everything else. What's really great to see is when people are really enjoying the music they’re feeling it, dancing, singing along. It was really extraordinary to see that,” Max Lee (12) said.

Carter Chadwick

Carter Chadwick

“When I perform, I feel liberated. I’m focused on the moment and immersed in the music. I love that feeling of being able to just focus on the music and kind of forget everything else. What's really great to see is when people are really enjoying the music they’re feeling it, dancing, singing along. It was really extraordinary to see that,” Max Lee (12) said.

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Though the streets are packed with people moving about their day, it is hard not to miss Max Lee (12) on the piano playing with the Jazz Factor.

Jazz Factor is a band that has performed at school and at festivals such as the San Jose Jazz Fest and the Palo Alto Festival of the Arts. Originally the band just played together for their own enjoyment, yet they soon after they branched out and started to play at public events.

“We started mainly just trying to play jazz because we wanted to, then we got thinking that we have this amazing blend of really good sound so we should not just be keeping it to ourselves,” Max said.

The band started in the spring of 2016 when three students, Brendon Wong (12), Bryan Wang (12), and Neil Ramaswamy (‘19), wanted to play more Jazz outside of school. Soon after, Max asked to join their group.

 “Max definitely took the largest leap of faith out of all of us, because he told us he didn’t train in jazz, he’s more classically trained,” said Bryan. “Max is definitely not the type of person to be confined by boundaries.” 

Max’s uncontainable passion is part of what pushes him to play in Jazz Factor, as well as perform in Harker’s show choir, Downbeat. Though he may be anxious, he is not one to let himself be stopped by fear.

“He auditioned for Downbeat, and I remember the big stretch for him was the dance requirement, he had to get out there in a way he wasn’t accustomed too.”  Jennifer Sandusky, vocal music teacher and one of the Downbeat directors said. “Especially with his interest in Jazz and his ability to improvise, I felt Downbeat seemed like the place for him and of course he got in.”

Along with his steadfast mindset, Max is able to acclimate to problems or new situations easily.

“Max is adaptable, he can adjust to face any problem that comes his way of doing it in a calm way,” Brendon said.

Max’s determinedness to play added with is his own personal goals of helping people, resulted in Max proposing idea to use their public shows to raise money for charity and he was not deterred from the challenges.

“The main thing I’ve learned from Jazz is in order to make the best music and create the best product, you have to build off your bandmates’ ideas, create something bigger than yourself,”  Max said. “It’s the main reason why we were donating the money we’ve made because we’re trying to make an impact that’s greater than ourselves.”

Max’s ideas of helping other schools and people align with his personal values of helping others.

“I’ve been heading most of the non-profit stuff,” Max said. “I’m talking to the school right now to coordinate all the donations, and I also set up a GoFundMe for it as well.”

Max has been coordinating with a family’s friend school that he and his friend teach at, Russo/McEntee Academy, to aid their underfunded music department and, more specifically, their band. 

“The band needs some musical instruments, they also need some general funding for music binders and notebooks,” Max said. “Were hoping that all the money we’re donating to the school is going to be ut into the band to give the kids more opportunities to embrace music.”

During the San Jose Arts Festival, the group played in a small cafe and drew in a large crowd with their music.

“We were playing in this cafe, and when we started there was no one there. We started playing, and by the end, the entire cafe was filled with people and they were all bobbing their heads, enjoying the music,” said Max. “The last song we played was a crazy song, called ‘Strasbourg St Denis,’ it’s kind of our signature song.”

The feeling that Max experiences during performances pushes him to continue to practice and perform and makes the time he spends on music worthwhile.

“When I perform, I feel liberated. I’m focused on the moment and immersed in the music. I love that feeling of being able to just focus on the music and kind of forget everything else,” Max said. “What’s really great to see is when people are really enjoying the music they’re feeling it, dancing, singing along. It was really extraordinary to see that.”