Bel Canto singer finds his voice in song


Ishani Hariprasad

Junior Max Mathias practices in Bel Canto on Nov. 15. Since he took choir in sixth grade, Max has found joy in singing and has worked to spread that joy to others.

Clare McRoberts, Assistant Editor

Last spring, as students quietly worked through statistics problems in class, song would often emanate from one of the student desks. Sometimes it was Christmas songs, other times Adele. But it was always Max Mathias, who regularly sang for his classmates. 

“I’d say I entertained about 50%,” Max said, chuckling, “and I’m sure the other 50% wanted to stab me.”

Max, a junior, not only sings in math class but also in the car, in the shower, while doing homework and in the U-High choral group, Bel Canto. He said he was once a shy bookworm who was brought out of his shell after joining middle school choir and later Bel Canto.

“It took a while,” Max said, “but I would say that music was one of the catalysts in my growth.”

In sixth grade, Max chose choir as his required music class. His mother had always enjoyed and encouraged music. His father, he acknowledged, is tone deaf.

Bel Canto, a group of about 25 singers, practices four times a week and performs regularly. The group mostly sings a cappella, though they are occasionally accompanied by piano or another instrument.

By the time high school came around, Max’s choir teachers and the Bel Canto directors, Katy Sinclair and Hsing-Huei Huang, persuaded him to join the a cappella group. Ms. Sinclair said that in the six years she has known Max, one quality has stood out to her.

“He loves music,” she said. “So, therefore everything that he does is not a chore. It’s seeking understanding for something he loves. Max’s gift is a beautiful voice and his love of music.”

He loves music. So, therefore everything that he does is not a chore. It’s seeking understanding for something he loves. Max’s gift is a beautiful voice and his love of music.

— Katy Sinclair

Max also participates in a U-High quartet. In all, he said he currently spends about 75 minutes a day on music, in one form or another. 

In Bel Canto, he now sings bass parts, but said he has sung almost every part since high school began. Max said his best skill as a singer might be his ability to keep track of his part of a song even at moments when other parts are headed in different directions. 

Of the many highlights Max recalls from his time in Bel Canto, the sound of one moment in “O Holy Night,” a Christmas song, has stuck with him. He also said the banquets the group holds before some performances were high points. 

“That is always a blast,” Max said. “You get to see people — everyone’s a little anxious — but really wanting to get away from the nerves. So everyone’s just ready to have fun and get on stage.”

At times, the commitment to Bel Canto has meant sacrifice. Max considered seeking a role as a peer leader but learned that it would be difficult to make the schedules work for both activities.

“Ultimately,” Max said, “I decided to stay with Bel Canto because I enjoyed it more and I thought I could have more of an impact there.”

Max plans to join an a cappella group in college to continue to pursue his passion. And brighten classrooms, spreading his joy of music wherever he goes.