To The Max

     Some children are inspired by their parents. They seek to emulate the role models who raised them. Today, I was inspired by my child who turns twenty-five years old this month. He may be twenty-five in calendar years, but after a conversation I had with him this morning, I realized he is wise beyond his years.

     I’ve written about my youngest son Max in this column before. I’ve recounted the details of his miracle birth. I’ve relived his trials and tribulations of Middle School. I’ve marveled at his metamorphosis in high school as he matured into a caring young man. 

     I was there when music became his passion. I watched him discover guitar players I never heard of. I was perplexed when he developed a love for jazz music – a surprising choice since the soundtrack of his childhood was the music I listened to – Talking Heads, 80’s retro-pop and top forty countdowns. 

     I was angry when his high-school guidance counselor told him he would not be a good candidate for a four-year college. I held my breath when Boston’s Berklee College of Music granted him an entrance audition to see if he qualified to attend based on his musical talent. (He passed with flying colors and earned top honors at the school). Jazz guitar became his forte. 

     I can’t explain the feeling I get when I listen to his original musical compositions. His body of work covers all genres: Jazz. Swing. Experimental Electronica. 60’s surf instrumentals. (No 80’s retro-pop yet but there’s still time.) The experience and confidence he gained at Berklee enhanced his musical experience a thousand-fold. While in college he discovered a passion for teaching. He wanted to inspire a new generation with his knowledge and love of improvisational Jazz. 

     I worried when at age 21 he told me he saved enough money for a ten-day trip to Japan. He wanted to spend time in the country as he was contemplating moving to Tokyo. Traveling alone to a foreign country was an adventure to him. The summer before his college graduation, I watched his plane depart. I wished him luck and wondered what the future would bring.

     He returned home from that trip with the promise of a job at The Tokyo School of Music. He would become the youngest professor to teach at the college. His love of guitar, jazz and teaching coalesced into his dream job before he even had his diploma in his hand. (Take that, high-school guidance counselor. Oh yes, I’m still bitter.)

     His new life in Tokyo began with a series of life-changing experiences. He learned what it means to live as a minority in an ancient society. He learned about the evils of corporate greed. He learned how easy it is to inspire but how difficult it is to teach. He fell in love after a chance meeting with a beautiful young woman named Hiromi, who is now his wife. (I’m sure she is the only Hiromi Mullowney in Japan).

     Recently, Max accepted a new job in Tokyo at a French production company where he uses his musical talent to create soundtracks for television commercials, documentaries and music videos as well as various other sound related assignments. His creativity is constantly evolving.

     It’s easy to be inspired by his success story, but that isn’t what prompted me to write this column about him on the eve of his twenty-fifth birthday. I spoke with him by phone for a quick family re-cap conversation. I was impressed with his knowledge of politics and his sense of optimism for the future despite what the media shows us on television on a daily basis. He told me I’d be much less stressed if I just turned the television off. He gets most of his news from newspaper websites. He believes in the power of credible journalism, which made me proud to be a newspaper man. Maybe the industry has a future after all.

     I was deeply touched as our weekly phone call was ending. While we talked about plans for the future, Max told me one of his greatest life lessons came from me. He said, “I’ll always remember what you told me when I was a young child. Find something you love, make it your passion, and everything else will fall into place.” 

     I’m glad my son was listening. People fail if they don’t believe they will succeed. Max’s success story is a testimonial to the power of positive thinking. He became who he is thanks to a supportive close-knit family, an intelligence beyond his years, and the grace of the gift of creativity. I’m guessing the Talking Heads, 80’s retro-pop and top-forty countdown music had something to do with it as well.

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