Meet Max Wise.
He is THE Middle School Jazz Band drummer for the state of Florida. 🙌
Max is an 8th grader at Meigs Middle School in Shalimar, FL and has been playing drums for the past 5 years. His first two years of drums was at the elementary level after he soon realized that he did not like playing
everyone’s favorite instrument, the recorder. For the last three years, his talents have been at Meigs.
But becoming one of the top drummers in the state almost didn’t happen as he entered into Middle School.
“I really did like the trumpet,” said Max. “I tried that, but I couldn’t play it. I almost played the flute until the man who was letting us try out instruments introduced percussion and I knew I wanted to do that.”
From that point on, Max has been all in on percussion. His 6th grade year he joined the Meigs band and played bass drum. While his 7th and 8th grade year he has been on snare during football season (though he has played the quads too.)
Max tells me that of the two, snare vs. quads, he prefers playing the snare because of the more technical aspect of it.
But band isn’t just about Friday night football games. As any good band student knows, once marching season is over, concert season begins. For Max, concert season is something he looks forward to.
“I like concert season more because I like the way the band sounds and how the different instruments play a part in the song,” said Max. “Marching season is more technical and learning the pieces.”
However, his preference could change once he gets to the high school level since middle school bands don’t have marching routines on the field.
“I’m looking forward to Choctaw’s marching season,” continued Max. “Because I like that we do get to march on the field and also Winter percussion looks like a lot of fun.”
Like everything in 2020, even trying out for All-state band was different this year. Students had to audition using the HeartOut app that recorded a video of their performance.
For Max’s audition, he went to the school on a Saturday to meet his drum instructor, Brent Purcell, and his band director, Courtney Noe. He was allowed to warm up, get a sound check, then record his audition material three times. The drum set audition required him to play a written swing and funk etude as well as demonstrate multiple grooves – rock, swing, and boss nova.
At the end of the third performance, the three of them all voted on which performance was best for the official submission.
This was Max’s second year trying out for All-state.
“I tried out last year, but I didn’t make it,” said Max. “Last year, I didn’t really know much of what I was doing and wasn’t as motivated as I am this year.”
Max began taking private lessons with Brent Purcell.
“My drum teacher helped me out a lot and he helped explain a lot of things to me,” said Max. “He comes sometimes during class, maybe twice a week.”
After auditioning for All-state’s middle school jazz band, Max was selected.
“I was thrilled when I found out he made All-state jazz band!,” said Courtney Noe, Band Director at Meigs Middle School. “I knew that he had studied his music and worked overtime to prepare for this audition. It is always great when a student is rewarded for their hard work.”
But jazz band wasn’t the only band Max auditioned for. He also went for All-State Concert Band that involved the same video submission process. For this audition, Max played prepared pieces on the marimba and snare drum, as well as his memorized scales.
According to Noe, the All-State Jazz Band selects their drummers before the Concert All-State Band gets a choice in their percussion members. Max was chosen for the first audition band – the jazz band.
“We would like to think he was also chosen for the other ensemble had he not been snatched up so quickly by the jazz band,” said Director Noe. “And I truly believe his audition for the concert ensemble was equally or more impressive than his jazz performance. He was great all around.”
The jazz band only selects two drum set players out of all of the middle schools in Florida.
“I like jazz band because it’s a different style than marching and symphonic band,” said Max. “It’s more loose and outgoing and offers more variety on the drum set than what I get to do with just the snare.”
Aside from the drums, Max tells me that one of the best parts of being in the band is the teachers that he’s had the opportunity to learn from.
“I really like having Mrs. Noe. She makes it fun!,” said Max.
“Max is an excellent student,” said Noe. “He is prepared, he gets along well with his peers, and he is very musically intuitive. His high performance skills have encouraged those around him to improve their own skills and meet him at his level. He is really a wonderful student and he will be missed when he leaves for high school next year. He is a valuable member of the band. I know he will continue be a great leader at Choctaw High School.”
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Speaking of Choctaw, the band program is excited for students like Max to make their way over to the high school.
“We’re excited to continue his development as a young adult and percussionist,” said Brad Parks, Band Director at Choctawhatchee High School. “Seeing Max’s success in his All-State audition and being selected as THE Middle School Jazz Band Drummer for the entire state is very encouraging and impressive. We have a jazz band here at Choctaw that we think Max will continue to flourish in.”
As for the Meigs Middle School Band, it is starting to brighten back up after losing many months of playing from the last school year and jumping the many hurdles of the new school year.
“We have an upcoming Winter concert later this week and plan to hype-up more opportunities in the spring semester with our jazz band and beginning bands,” continued Noe. “Our joy in the school year has come from playing together in class and we hope to have many opportunities to demonstrate this to our community throughout the rest of the year.”