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Artist Spotlight: Max Simmons

Max Simmons ‘16 is a guy who admires the pursuit of passion over profit, and he pursues his passions with a fervency. His academic goals alone show this; he majors in double bass performance and East Asian studies with minors in Japanese and teaching ESL. Beyond this he has an impressive list of extracurriculars. He performs in LSO, concert choir, and the baroque ensemble, has been an RLA for three years, is president of the Anime Club, a regular member of LUMOS, a tutor and a custodian, not to mention the various other activities and organizations he dabbles in. Yet despite his hectic schedule, Simmons knows what he wants to do here.

“Be real with yourself about why you’re here,” he explained by way of advice. “Focus on what you want to get out of the college experience.”

Simmons’ musical interests have been with him since he was a child, when he was always the loudest one singing in choir. He picked up the double bass in middle school in order to do the exact opposite of his older brother, who started playing violin. As fate would have it, he hasn’t stopped playing the bass since.

Simmons grew up watching shows like Dragonball and Sailor Moon. His early interest in Japanese pop culture spurred his interest in East Asian studies. He began to question the context of these shows and started researching the cultural references. It became an important part of his persona and something that he wished to pursue academically.

Since coming to Lawrence these interests have developed. In the realm of bass performance, Simmons became fascinated with baroque music. A movement based in the dance and court culture of eighteenth century France, baroque brings to mind images of elegance, grace and powdered wigs. The music is not immediately complex, but harbors intricacies under the surface.

“In baroque music it’s very rare that you play what’s exactly on the page,” said Simmons. “The composers will often leave a lot for the performer to improv.”

He also admires the teamwork aspect of being in a baroque ensemble. The ensemble is less about the individual instruments and more about the group performing together; it is a very powerful and meaningful experience for those involved.

Simmons’ interest in Japanese pop culture has never wavered, and his research has expanded into history. He now enjoys researching Japanese culture when it first began to interact with American culture in the nineteenth century. He is also impressively dedicated to learning Japanese and can speak and understand the language reasonably well after almost four years of college study.

The future is largely up in the air for Simmons, who still has one more year before completing his double degree. He has various ideas, one of which is teaching English in Japan for a period of time.

You can see Simmons perform with the baroque ensemble in their side-by-side concert with the Flying Forms, a professional baroque ensemble based in the Twin Cities. It will be on Sunday, Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. in the Esch-Hurvis Studio in Warch.