Maxwell Korman wakes up to a daily mountain of physics problem sets and computer classes. Somewhere in that pile are bits of sheet music — Korman’s prep for Boston College’s 30th annual Pops on the Heights gala.
Korman, MCAS ’23, was chosen from dozens of singers from across B.C. who auditioned in April to perform at the annual fundraiser, which draws thousands of alumni and community benefactors from the British Columbia.
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 BC University Choir, who are also part of the concert lineup.
With the rigorous audition process and stiff competition, it would make sense for Korman to devote all of his time to honing 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 much music [activities]and I would love to practice 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 his time he floats from one musical company to another: University Chorale, Chamber Music Society, Musical Theater Cabaret, Tanglewood Festival Chorus and the multilingual singing group Liederabend.
Korman is also musical director of the Madrigal Singers of BC and takes private lessons in voice, piano and conducting.
Despite all his experience, Korman didn’t have high expectations when he decided to audition for Pops on the Heights.
“I was just like, ‘I’m going to try it and I absolutely won’t be torn if I don’t get it,'” Korman said. “I was totally surprised. I just thought it was really cool and a unique opportunity.
He auditioned last semester in front of a panel of music teachers and bandleaders with the musical’s “Giants in the Sky.” In the woods and “Goodbye” from Catch Me If You Can under the high ceilings of the Chapel of the Trinity.
For Pops on the Height, Korman will perform “Corner of the Sky” from the 1972 musical Pippin apple.
Korman’s devotion to music didn’t start in college. He was born into it.
“My mom is a piano teacher and has been since I was born,” Korman said. “It was just always home, so I just thought I was going to learn piano eventually. There really wasn’t any other avenue for me.
Despite his burgeoning musical success, Korman is obsessed with a future in STEM. He said his goal is to go to graduate school in physics and do postdoctoral research. He also vowed a future full-time music career, wishing music would continue to be an outlet for pleasure rather than an occupation.
Korman admires thinkers and innovators like Pythagoras and Elon Musk, although he highlighted 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 was always impressive.
“He handled his commitments so well and definitely made time for his academics, but also prioritized his commitments and his musical passions to make sure he got the joy out of those extracurricular activities,” said Dmitri.
Korman may make walking the tightrope between academic success and musical aspiration seem effortless, but he says 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 his refuge from the headaches of computing and physics.
“When I’m working on all my science stuff and I don’t want to think anymore, I go to the piano,” Korman said.
During three years at British Columbia, Korman’s involvement in music grew steadily, as did his academic workload. Accordingly, Korman explored a range of vocal areas, including musicals and multilingual Liederabend pieces.
Pamela Murray, a member of BC’s voice faculty and Korman’s voice teacher for three years, was wowed by his singing and acting skills when he auditioned for “Goodbye” last semester.
“I remember we were all blown away by his performance,” Murray said.
Korman’s progress during his career in BC has mainly been about gaining confidence in his performances and expanding the range of his musical skills.
Even with the upcoming high-stakes show, Korman isn’t feeling too worried.
“It’s not very intimidating, but that’s because I’m not standing in front of the thousands of people who are going to be in the audience. [right now]”, Korman said. “I practice singing myself in a room for my singing teacher, and I’ve done it a million times, and it’s perfectly fine.”
Both Dimitri and Murray have faith in Korman ahead of his marquee performance.
“He is by far one of the greatest college musicians I have encountered in BC and in my various musical circles,” Dimitri said.
Korman’s life fits into a hectic schedule that keeps piling up as he balances his musical and STEM aspirations. But his accomplishments show he’s cracked the code to balance his various pursuits.
“It’s just [about] stay organized, know what needs to be done,” Korman said. “And every second that I’m not doing things that need to be done, I spend it on music.”