Maxwell Korman wakes up with a daily mountain of physics assignments and computer science lectures. Somewhere in that pile is sheet music — Korman’s preparation for Boston College’s 30th Annual Pops on the Heights Gala.
Korman, MCAS ’23, was selected from dozens of BC singers who auditioned in April to perform at the annual fundraiser, which draws thousands of alumni and benefactors in the BC community.
At the sold-out gala, he will sing alongside the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra conducted by conductor Keith Lockhart. Korman will also be joined by award-winning musician Jon Batiste and the University Chorale of BC, also featured in the concert’s cast.
Given the rigorous audition process and intense competition, it would make sense for Korman to devote all of his time to perfecting his singing talent.
But Korman balances his music with so much more.
“Everything interferes with everything,” Korman said. “I never have enough time. I like so much music [activities]and I would like to practice all the time, but I just don’t have time for that.”
Korman’s academic years are focused on his Physics major and Computer Science minor, but the rest of the time he hovers from musical endeavor to musical endeavor: University Choir, Chamber Music Society, Musical Theater 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 singing, piano and conducting.
For all his experience, Korman didn’t have high expectations when he decided to audition for Pops on the Heights.
“I just thought, ‘I’m going to try and I absolutely won’t be torn if I don’t get it,'” Korman said. “I was totally surprised. I just thought it was cool and such a unique opportunity.”
Last semester, he auditioned for a jury of music professors and conductors with “Giants in the Sky” from the musical In the forest and “Goodbye”. Catch Me If You Can under the high ceilings of Trinity Chapel.
For Pops on the Height, Korman will perform “Corner of the Sky” from the 1972 musical pippin.
Korman’s dedication to music didn’t begin in college. He was born into it.
“My mother’s a piano teacher and has been since I was born,” Korman said. “It was just always around the house, so I kind of thought that at some point I’ll learn the piano. There wasn’t really any other way for me.”
Despite his burgeoning musical success, Korman is fixated on a future in STEM. He said his goal is to attend graduate school in physics and do postdoctoral research. He has also sworn off a future full-time music career and wishes music to continue to be an outlet for pleasure rather than a profession.
Korman looks up to thinkers and innovators like Pythagoras and Elon Musk, although he emphasized his disdain for Musk’s personal character.
Christina Dimitri, former president of the Madrigal Singers and LGSOE ’23, said Korman’s ability to balance school and music has always been impressive.
“He handled his commitments so well and definitely made time for his academics, but also prioritized his musical commitments and passions to ensure he got the joy out of those extracurricular activities,” Dimitri said.
Korman may make walking the tightrope between academic success and musical ambition seem effortless, but he said it takes great discipline to manage the stress that comes with his many commitments.
Playing the piano and singing is Korman’s creative outlet and serves as a refuge from the headaches of computer science and physics.
“When I’m doing all my science stuff and I just don’t want to think anymore, I go to the piano,” Korman said.
During his three years at BC, Korman’s commitment to music has continued to grow, as has his academic workload. As a result, Korman has explored a number of vocal realms, including musicals and the multilingual songs of recital.
Pamela Murray, a faculty member at BC and Korman’s voice teacher for three years, was impressed with both his singing and acting skills during his audition performance of “Goodbye” last semester.
“I remember we were all blown away by his performance,” Murray said.
Korman’s advancements throughout his BC career consisted primarily of gaining confidence in his performances and expanding the range of his musical abilities.
Korman isn’t too worried about the upcoming high stakes show either.
“It’s not very intimidating, but that’s because I’m not standing in front of the thousands of people that will be in the audience [right now]’ Korman said. “I practice singing myself in a room for my voice teacher and I’ve done it a million times and that’s totally fine.”
Both Dimitri and Murray are confident Korman will face his marquee performance.
“He’s by far one of the greatest college musicians I’ve met in BC and in my various music circles,” said Dimitri.
Korman’s life consists of a busy schedule that continues to build as he balances further musical and STEM ambitions. But his accomplishments show he’s cracked the code to reconcile his diverse activities.
“It is only [about] staying organized — knowing what to do,” Korman said. “And every second that I’m not doing with things that need getting done, I spend with music.”