Musician. Producer. Grammy™ Nominee. Educator. Richard Maxwell’s musical journey has taken him from the podium of classical symphony orchestras, to heart of the modern day Rock recording studio. A self-proclaimed “never was, “ (as opposed to a “has been”) Richard is actually a very accomplished songwriter and drummer, with an endless fascination on how the creative process can be continually reshaped and evolved both with and without the use of technology.
To that end, Maxwell has literally revolutionized the music education paradigm by creating the first public high school music program of its kind: a full record label, run entirely by students. Maxwell’s Creative Musical Arts and Sciences (CMAS) program – formerly known as Contemporary Music And Sound – at Arcadia High School in Phoenix, Arizona is endorsed by a who’s-who of music education and industry professionals. From University professors across the United States to legends like George Benson, Nils Lofgren, Glen Phillips and Vernon Reid, CMAS is the model for contemporary music education. So much so that it is a very rare academic term that he is not asked to host numerous interns and/or student teachers from major universities. Maxwell even ran the Arcadia Band and Orchestra programs for nine years (he secretly still misses conducting his two full, symphony orchestras) while developing the CMAS program. Says Maxwell, “At one point I was confronted with the notion that all music is inherently related to all other music. Styles, genres, instrumentation, and all the rest, are significant, but they are not in isolation. Once I was able to see that reality, it was like the entire musical world opened up to me.”
CMAS does more than just keep kids in school. They earn college credit, and perhaps most importantly, learn how really collaborate and to deal with complex processes – skills needed in any field – as well as allowing them to go on to higher education or into the music industry and get jobs. And, with no experience required, and no musical restrictions of any kind – students can focus on any musical genre from Classical to Metal, to Jazz, to Hip-Hop, to whatever speaks to them, CMAS does all these things, despite appearances, at a fraction of the cost of more traditional programs. “There’s never a guarantee of anything in life, certainly never in this industry, but CMAS really is something new. It may not be for everyone, but there’s a huge demographic of students not being reached by many of the more traditional approaches to music education. There’s nothing wrong with these other models, but why shouldn’t we be offering students the opportunity to learn about the music of today? Why can’t they write, record, perform and produce their own music on a level that allows them to legitimately move forward into a real career? The answer is we can. In fact, we should.”
These days, when he’s not spending time working to further his music education “experiment” as he calls it with CMAS, Maxwell is busy exploring his own creative process, continuing to write songs and music as well as working on new ways to further change the notion of the singer/songwriter in the current music industry. Currently Richard is completing work on a book (“I’ve Come To Kill Your Music Program: Essays On A Journey To Align Music Education With The Music Industry”) about CMAS and how others can create similar music programs. In early 2014 he was honored as the Arizona State University Music Education Mentor of the Year, and in December 2014 Richard was selected as a finalist for the 2015 GRAMMY® Music Educator of the year. Recently Maxwell was selected as a 2016 GRAMMY® Quarterfinalist (semifinalist will be announced in the Fall of 2015). Says Maxwell, “I get to make music every day. Life is good.”