Imagine for a moment, being on stage with your fellow musicians as your director explains to a filled auditorium that the next piece is no ordinary song, it is a song composed by you. You stand for acknowledgement from the back row though you aren’t a limelight type person. But now it’s your time to shine, the bright lights and all eyes, and ears, are on you and your team. What thoughts are running through your head? For Maxwell Kowal, it was: “Lord save me!”
On November 29, the L’Anse Creuse High School – North Wind Symphony Band performed a complex, eight minute song titled Space Continent composed by 16-year-old high school junior Maxwell Kowal. The story of Space Continent is one of teamwork, creativity, perseverance and support from all the right people.
“Max showed me this piece in January ,” said Band Director Dan Griffith, explaining how he became involved in this process “He would play it and we would give feedback. The melody is a great melody!”
Max and Mr. Griffith spent several months working together to finish the piece, working through the composition and simplifying some of the more complex sections to make it appropriate for high school musicians.
Once the song was complete it was presented to the band. Though it was a difficult piece, his classmates accepted the challenge in the spirit of supporting one of their own. Mr. Griffith recalled, “Every kid had a lot of respect for what [the song] was, what we were doing, and why we were doing it. Nobody questioned why and they gave it their all.”
They say lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice. However, in Max’s case it does — Space Continent wasn’t the first of his original pieces to be played by his bandmates.
With the help and support from his friends and Middle School – North Band Director Justin Comerford, those measures became Shadow Battle, a three-minute piece for 17 instruments that the entire band performed at the Spring Concert. Mr. Comerford remembers fondly, “The students were pretty impressed. Every day in rehearsal, when it was time to practice Maxwell’s piece, you could hear the excited whispers of, ‘YESSSSS!’” He went on to say, “The performance was a success for Maxwell and his classmates. Everyone was proud to perform his music.”
Overall Max has started approximately 60 songs and considers four of those to be complete. Of those four, the two previously mentioned pieces have been performed live by a full symphony band. Another was a duet he wrote in high school for himself and his best friend to perform at the Solo and Ensemble competition.
With all three songs, his band directors were instrumental in helping Max’s dream become a reality. Max’s mom, Colleen Sloan-Kowal, proudly stated, “Until recently, the only music training Max has received has been through the fabulous music educators in our district, such as Gennifer Bradshaw at Atwood, Justin Comerford at MS-N, and David Mety and Daniel Griffith at LCHS-N.”
It’s clear to everyone that Max has a gift, but many times talent needs help, and Max’s talent has had plenty. His teachers, colleagues and family haven’t just created a nurturing environment, they’ve been the steady note from which Max has been able to build. Max’s music filled the auditorium and the hearts of those who have stood by his side, and on a chilly night in November, everyone involved enjoyed the fruits of their labor.
As for the future, Max intends to pursue music and composing. The university he will be attending is still being determined. However, regardless of where he ends up, it’s safe to say this won’t be the last we hear of the talented Maxwell Kowal.
L’Anse Creuse High School - North is located in Macomb Township.