Introducing Maxwell Friedman

Meet Maxwell Friedman

By Lisa Nasr

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Bend is no stranger to accomplished athletes, actors or musicians. Maxwell Friedman at the age of 12 is one local celebrity making his mark on the world. Since his introduction to music with the drums when he was three years old, he’s gone on to play various instruments including the guitar and the piano. When he began his study of the piano a little more than three years ago, his relationship with music finally clicked, in particular his love of jazz. He’s had remarkable success in these few short years and has played with Karl Denson (of the Rolling Stones), Mark Ransom, Elektrapod and Michael Franti to name just a few. Recently, Maxwell gave an outstanding TedXBend talk.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Maxwell and his mother Kory while they were at the University of Oregon Jazz Improvisation Camp. The camp is open to children who have completed grades 7-12. (Maxwell was granted special permission to participate based on a recording he submitted, even though he will be entering 7th grade at REALMS this fall).

It’s 9:45 on a Monday evening; Kory answers the phone, Maxwell quickly joins the conversation and we start talking about his musical background. Music is clearly a core value for his family. His life-long exposure comes through playing several instruments and frequenting music festivals. His biological father is a trumpet player, his adopted father plays guitar and his younger brother Levi, who is also musically gifted, plays guitar. When talking about Maxwell his mom declares, “music is in his DNA.” One doesn’t need a genetic test to prove it, when you hear him talk, even his voice carries a tune.

Maxwell has quite the sense of humor about his elementary years, as he spent a lot of time in “reflection” sharing an office with Amity Creek Principal Carol Hammett. When asked if he were a rule breaker, he was quick to clarify that it wasn’t about breaking rules and that maybe he was a “rebel” but mostly “I had a hard time sitting still. They gave me a ball to squeeze but I kept losing the ball because my mind was in another place.” He goes on to explain that the complex nature of jazz allows him to focus his “excess brain power and requires concentration, because jazz is a genre of music that is complicated. It isn’t very simple. I have to concentrate pretty hard.” He didn’t only have a hard time sitting still; he was also ahead of the game by the time he entered elementary school, since he had attended an academic preschool. By the time he was in the early grades of elementary, the material was mostly review.

True to his Bend roots, this 12-year-old is no stranger to outdoor activities. When Maxwell has free time he enjoys downhill skiing at Mt. Bachelor, flag football, ice skating, biking, swimming and paddle boarding, but he’s had to say goodbye to a few of his favorite activities like hockey, boxing and trampolines because, as a musician “if you break your hand, you are done for.” I couldn’t help asking, and the answer is no, he’s not playing Pokémon Go.

He does have some advice for parents, “If the kid hates it, don’t force it. Let them try new things and find their own voice.” He gives a ton of credit to his parents and grandparents saying they have been “insanely supportive”, buying instruments, equipment, paying for camps and lessons. He also has advice for kids, “Stick to it! Practice. Work hard. Believe in yourself!”

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