When Max Carroll was a fourth
grader at Fernway, he drew an
interior model and exterior elevation
of his home to scale. In the lower
corner of the elevation he noted,
“3/16=1’.” Carroll took his time and
the project seriously and, clearly,
had an aptitude for detail.
Last March, as the state entered
a lockdown during Carroll’s junior
year, he found that his ability
to devote himself to a project,
combined with his passion for music
-- specifically piano, drums and
oboe -- presented him with an ideal
way to pass the time, and to do so
with impressive results.
“Music really helped me through
this,” says Carroll.
Like Coffman, Carroll admits
that early in the pandemic, when
school went fully remote, he wasn’t
as organized as he could have been.
But his mother made sure that was a
“I had so much extra time and
sometimes it would slip away. My
mom didn’t want me to get ‘summer
brain.’ She made sure that I wasn’t
just lounging around all the time,”
he says with a chuckle.
Carroll started to think about
his goals and made a checklist. One
of the items was to play the difficult
third movement of Ravel’s piano Concerto in G Major. Ravel’s modernism
appealed to Carroll, a jazz enthusiast who also plays in the High School jazz
band and the Tri-C JazzFest Academy program.
With more free time, Carroll started to practice two, sometimes three
hours a day. As someone with a penchant for analyzing patterns and
focusing on details, Carroll committed himself to purposeful practicing.
Each day, he’d play a section of the piece. First, he’d play it slowly to
learn it. Then, he’d work until he could play it cleanly. Finally, he’d pick up
the tempo to play it up to speed. By late May, he’d learned the piece and
performed it flawlessly, accompanied by his teacher, for a virtual concert.
(The performance is available online at youtu.be/H1HCcd6iSbU).
Carroll was pleased with his performance and says that the pandemic
and his hours spent practicing gave him a new perspective on music,
especially live jazz performances.
Prior to the pandemic, Carroll regularly collaborated with fellow jazz
musicians at the High School or at Tri-C. When the state shut down, he
was played solo. This fall, the Tri-C program opened back up with a hybrid
schedule for music students on Saturdays.
“I was so glad to get back to playing in person. Going back to it, I
realized how much I missed it,” he says. “And now the time that we have in
person is really valuable. I think I took the live aspect of music for granted.”
The pandemic has also made him more aware and grateful for his
relationship with music, especially piano. “If I have a lot of homework ahead
of me, sometimes, I’ll stop and practice for a few minutes,” Carroll explains.
“It’s a good segue between relaxing and doing homework and a good way
to get my brain moving again.”
With only five more months left of high school, Carroll has his sights
set on what’s ahead. A successful student — Carroll is a National Merit
Semifinalist who also self-studied his way to a perfect score on the ACT —
he plans to study biology in college.
But music, he says, will continue to be a part of his life. “When I started
playing music, I didn’t know I would come this far,” he says. “It’s shaped
me more than I possibly could have expected, and I know it’ll stay with me
through my life.”
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