Democrat File Photo
MAX SIEGEL, CENTER, jokes with a fellow member of the Liberty Jazz Ensemble. The group was chosen to perform before the Boston Pops concert last summer at Bethel Woods.
Max Siegel joins select musical elite
By Jeanne Sager
LIBERTY He picked up his first instrument at 3, but it isn’t his playing prowess that’s earned Max Siegel his greatest musical triumph yet.
The son of Liberty’s middle school band director, grandson of one of the Callicoon Center Band’s longest-serving musicians, Siegel has been selected for the 2009 MENC (Music Educators’ National Conference) All-Eastern Honors Ensembles.
That’s right - he’ll join 650 of the best high school musicians in the Northeast onstage in Providence, RI this March.
So how did the kid who started piano lessons at 3, trumpet lessons in third grade, who’s been in the Liberty school band since fourth grade, taken guitar lessons and played in the pep band at basketball games, end up as one of a handful of Sullivan County kids to make All-Eastern for singing?
“It was music,” Siegel said with a laugh.
The Liberty High School senior signed up for chorus in ninth grade, but conflicting class schedules have kept it from ever being his main musical focus.
Still, he’s loved it for the chance to make good music with other talented musicians that his instrument is in his throat rather than his hands hasn’t mattered.
“I enjoy the sound that comes out of it when good musicians sing together,” Siegel explained. “I love just in general being a part of something great.
“You can meet random people on the street and make music together, make good music together.”
Instrumentally, Siegel’s been making good music for as long as he can remember.
He’s participated in the All-County Music Festivals since fifth grade, and earned a slot in the Area All-State bands every year since his freshman year of high school. He was selected for the All-State Symphonic Band in 2007.
Last year, Siegel’s choral director, Tim Hamblin, put in his bid to get Siegel involved in choral competition.
He suggested Siegel sing a solo at the New York State Music Association in the spring, a level six, the most challenging selection possible.
Siegel said he wasn’t sure, but he figured he’d give it a try.
He scored a perfect 100.
“The judges were blown away,” he said proudly.
The score earned him a spot in the All-State Chorus in December, and an application for the MENC All-Eastern performance.
Held every two years, All-Eastern is limited to juniors and seniors from 11 states and the District of Columbia.
“Student participation from each state is determined by a percentage of the total MENC Eastern Division membership, with no state given less than 2 percent representation,” explains Siegel’s dad, Liberty Music Director Gary Siegel.
“Each of the state music educators associations in the Eastern Division oversee the selection process in their state during the spring and early fall of the year before the event and compile ranked lists of recommended juniors and seniors for consideration,” he continued. “The committee builds the ensembles from the state presidents’ ranked lists, trying to mimic the state population percentages in each group.”
Gary Siegel has taken the All-Eastern announcement as any music director would. He’s proud to have this accomplishment come out of his school district’s music program.
But there’s a bonus for Siegel, the kind that means he can’t quite wipe the grin off of his face.
It’s his son who joins literally a handful of Sullivan County kids whom Siegel has seen selected from All-Eastern during his career.
“I don’t know if I could even fill up that hand,” he said. “They’re few and far between.”
But Gary and wife Judy have raised their kids with music, and Max has it inside of him.
“Max has always had music in his life, sometimes to his dismay,” Gary said with a laugh.
Watching his son walk into an audition, Gary has to turn off the “father” part of himself and watch as if this were any Liberty musician. Even then, Gary says he sees a kid who was made to make music.
“Max goes into an audition, and he doesn’t feel that pressure level that others do,” he explained. “He sees it as ‘this is part of me,’ rather than ‘I have to do well.’”
Max does well as much because he’s comfortable with his talents as he does because of years of training, Gary said.
“He’s developed the seed from inside.”
He’ll take that seed with him to college next year, where he plans to pursue a career in sound-recording technology.
He’ll also take the memories of having made it to All-Eastern, having gone farther already than any kid he knows.
“People should aspire to do something with their life, they should have something to work for,” Max said. “I have music.”