Local musician chases his dream
November 11, 2014
It was a week that changed his life, and Max Holm remembers it in vivid detail. He shifts back in his seat as he tells the story.
He was a young teenager in Miami, where he had moved with his family after spending the first 11 years of his life in Stockholm, Sweden. The son of an accomplished Swedish violinist, Holm had spent much of his life playing classical piano, in which he showed promise and technical proficiency.
But that all changed about four years ago when he attended a weeklong camp for young musicians that introduced him to jazz. He describes it as a transformative experience that showed him there was more to music than simply following the notes, line-by-line. It was freeing, like opening the doors to a new world.
Holm had always loved playing music, but suddenly, it was like he had found his calling. He absorbed all the jazz that he could, playing each day until his fingers cramped and sleep beckoned.
"I got so into it, I was playing, like, 16 hours a day," Holm said. "I just loved it so much. Before then, I didn’t really know about jazz or improvising and just playing. When I was introduced to jazz, it gave me a lot of freedom to experiment with sound."
Four years later, after moving to Park City in June to play with the prestigious Crescent Super Band in American Fork, Holm’s passion has earned him recognition. He recently was named the recipient of the Jazz Education Network Lou Fischer Co-Founder Scholarship, which is awarded to one high school jazz musician in the country each year who displays exceptional talent and potential.
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Holm will receive a $1,000 scholarship and will be presented with the award in January at the Jazz Education Network conference in San Diego. One of Holm’s idols, jazz musician Herbie Hancock, will be the keynote speaker.
"I’m so looking forward to that," he said.
As exciting as winning the award has been, Holm didn’t even know about it until the day of the deadline for applications. The conductor of the Crescent Super Band — which has won numerous national and state awards — called and told him he had a chance to win if he applied. The only catch was Holm needed to get five letters of recommendation by the end of the day.
"I was kind of freaking out, scrambling a little bit, trying to call people," Holm said. "I wasn’t really expecting anything, and then it all just happened."
Holm said he is humbled by the award. He hopes to use the scholarship to attend Boston’s Berklee College of Music after he graduates from Park City High School this spring. But to him, music is much more than an opportunity to win accolades.
He does not know life without music and wouldn’t want to. For Holm, making music is a natural experience, like breathing. And that is what has drawn him to jazz. He describes it as going through a deeply personal experience that just happens to manifest itself in sound. When he sits down to play, it simply flows through him.
"When you’re playing something, and you don’t know the next thing you’re going to play, it’s very instinctual," he said. "It’s organic, natural. It creates a perception in my mind that there’s something beyond what we’re seeing physically. Music is a search for that something else. It’s that connection where you feel, I don’t know, complete."
But music is also his path forward. It gives him purpose. He feels fortunate to know where he wants life to take him, while many of his peers do not have such a clear plan.
"I know a lot of friends, where it’s all about getting a good grade point average in school and a good SAT score and stuff like that," he said. "But then you look at what they want to do, and they have no idea. They don’t have any passions. Passion is what’s going to last a really long time."
Though he is certain his life will be about making music, he is unsure where, exactly, he will end up. That’s part of the excitement, but he does have a dream in mind. He wants to travel the world playing in different bands, sharing the sounds he makes with a piano. And he wants people to know his name.
"I want everybody to know about me," he said. "And not just here in the U.S. I’ll do my best to make it happen. I just know I really love this, and I’m going to keep going deeper and deeper."
For more information on Holm or to see videos of him playing, visit his website, maxholm.com.