Arts, Arts Features

Pops On The Heights Soloist Max Korman Pushes the Limits

Maxwell Korman wakes up to a daily mountain of physics problem sets and computer science lectures. Somewhere in that pile sits pieces of sheet music—Korman’s preparation for Boston College’s 30th Annual Pops on the Heights gala.

Korman, MCAS ’23, was chosen out of the dozens of vocalists at BC who auditioned in April to perform at the annual fundraiser, which attracts thousands of alumni and benefactors in the BC community. 

At the sold-out gala, he will sing alongside the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, led by conductor Keith Lockhart. Korman will also be in the company of award-winning musician Jon Batiste and the University Chorale of BC, who are also in the concert’s lineup. 

With the rigorous audition process and stringent competition, it would make sense for Korman to devote all his time to perfecting his vocal talent. 

But Korman balances his music with so much more. 

“Everything interferes with everything,” Korman said. “I never have enough time. I’m into so many music [activities], and I would love to be practicing exactly all the time, but I just don’t have time for that.”

Korman’s academic time is focused on his physics major and computer science minor, but the rest of the time, he’s floating from musical endeavor to musical endeavor: University Chorale, Chamber Music Society, Musical Theatre Cabaret, Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and the multilingual singing group Liederabend. 

Korman also serves as the musical director of the Madrigal Singers of BC and takes private lessons in vocals, piano, and conducting. 

Despite all of his experience, Korman didn’t have many expectations when he decided to audition for Pops on the Heights. 

“I was just like, ‘I’ll try it and will absolutely not be torn up if I don’t get it’,” Korman said. “I was totally surprised. I just thought it was really cool and such a unique opportunity.”

He auditioned last semester in front of a panel of music professors and conductors with “Giants in the Sky” from the musical Into The Woods and “Goodbye” from Catch Me If You Can under the soaring ceilings of Trinity Chapel. 

For Pops on the Height, Korman will perform “Corner of the Sky” from the 1972 musical Pippin

Korman’s devotion to music didn’t start in college. He was born into it. 

“My mother is a piano teacher and has been one since I was born,” Korman said. “It was just always in the house, so I just sort of thought that I’m eventually going to learn piano. There was no real other avenue for me.” 

Despite his burgeoning musical success, Korman is fixated on a future in STEM. He said his goal is to go to graduate school for physics and go into postdoctoral research. He’s also sworn off a future full-time music career, wishing for music to continue to be an outlet for enjoyment rather than an occupation. 

Korman looks up to thinkers and innovators like Pythagoras and Elon Musk, though he stressed his disdain for Musk’s personal character. 

Christina Dimitri, former president of the Madrigal Singers and LGSOE ’23, said that Korman’s ability to balance school and music was always impressive. 

“He managed his commitments so well and definitely made time for his academics but also prioritized his musical involvements and passions to make sure that he was getting the joy out of those extracurriculars,” Dimitri said. 

Korman may make the tightrope walk between academic success and musical aspiration seem effortless, but he said he has to exercise great discipline to sort through the stress that comes with his many commitments. 

Playing the piano and singing is Korman’s creative outlet and serves as a haven from the headaches of computer science and physics.

“When I’m working through all my science stuff and I just don’t want to think anymore, I go to the piano,” Korman said. 

Over three years at BC, Korman’s involvement with music has continually grown, as has his academic workload. As a result, Korman has explored a range of vocal realms, including musicals and the multilingual pieces of Liederabend.    

Pamela Murray, a member of the voice faculty at BC and Korman’s vocal teacher for three years, was wowed by both his singing and acting skills during his audition performance of “Goodbye” last semester. 

“I remember we were all kind of blown away by his performance,” Murray said.

Korman’s progress during his BC career has primarily been through gaining confidence in his performances and expanding the range of his musical proficiency. 

Even with the high-stakes show upcoming, Korman does not feel too worried. 

“It’s not very intimidating, but that’s because I’m not standing in front of the thousands of people that are going to be in the audience [right now],” Korman said. “I practice singing myself in a room for my voice teacher, and I’ve done that a million times, and that’s perfectly fine.”

Both Dimitri and Murray are confident in Korman ahead of his marquee performance.

“He is by far one of the greatest college musicians that I have met at BC and my various music circles,” Dimitri said. 

Korman’s life exists within a busy schedule that continues to pile up as he balances further musical and STEM aspirations. But his accomplishments show that he’s cracked the code to balancing his differing pursuits. 

“It’s just [about] staying organized—knowing what has to be done,” Korman said. “And every second that I’m not doing things that have to get done, I’m spending it on music.”

September 20, 2022