By Reggie Smith
Maxie Washington has always been fascinated by music. Born and raised in New Orleans, surrounded by music, the brass bands intrigued him as they would march through the streets during Mardi Gras and funeral parades. His first instinct was to play the drums, but a public school music teacher persuaded him to take up the trumpet, instead.
This ultimately led Maxie to play in various bands, in addition to playing at school. He credits music with helping him to keep on the straight and narrow path. “Music was fascinating to me–another great learning experience! It consumed all my free time which helped to keep me away from bad influences in the neighborhood. Growing up in a poor family and living in an impoverished environment you can easily be tempted by the potential rewards of crime. However, music spurred my drive to be successful in life and gave me a better opportunity to pursue.” His first paid gig was at the age of 15 with a garage band. “I was paid $8.00—the most money I had ever made in my life.”
Maxie entered college on a music scholarship but eventually changed his major from Music to Business, ultimately earning a B.S. in Business Administration. In 1973, he started working at a bank to support his wife and 2 children. He was recruited by a predecessor of Bank of America in 1981 and moved to Dallas, TX, where they spent twelve years. A promotion took him to Atlanta, GA for two years. After joining the bank’s Wealth Management Division as a Senior Vice President in 1994, he and his family moved to Nashville, TN for a year before another promotion took him to Charlotte, NC. They lived in Charlotte for the next twenty-one years, until his retirement to Southport, NC. He and his wife knew nothing about Southport. But, they fell in love with the area and bought a lot on the same day that they found themselves on an unexpected visit to St. James. One year later, in 2007, they built their retirement home and moved there permanently last November.
Throughout the years, he has played practically every musical genre, but he says that his favorite styles of music are Jazz and Latin. He enjoys the freedom of creative expression that Jazz offers as well as the diverse cultures and styles of Latin music. Some early influences and favorites were Herb Albert and Al Hirt. “I loved Herb’s Tijuana Brass sound”, Maxie says, “especially the warm sound of his horn–never heard anything like it before. And Al simply blew me away with his power and technical prowess on the trumpet.”
As one of the newest member of the Brunswick Arts Council’s board of directors, Maxie is now able to be an influencer, himself. Asked what he sees as his role on the board of directors, he says “I hope people will be inspired by how music broadened my horizons and brought about a change in my early life. I think our youth, in particular, possess talent and creativity beyond their imagination.” He encourages young people to pursue their passion for art, be it visual, performing, or otherwise, “to the highest extent and learn to capitalize on their endeavors. As a member of the Arts Council along with my fellow board members, I hope to be a network of support and information to assist inspiring artists in the community who wish to develop their craft to its full potential.”
To reach their potential, Maxie would advise aspiring musicians to network and take advantage of advice that more accomplished musicians give. “Like golfers,” he says, “(they) are always willing to give advice.” But, he also doesn’t want anyone to ignore the guidance of those who may not play an instrument or participate in the arts. Of all the influencers in his life, the ones that he values most are his mother, for the values that she instilled in him, and his wife of 46 years for her encouragement and support.
Maxie currently performs with the Brunswick Big Jazz Band, Brunswick Concert Band, and a local Dixieland group. And, not being able to totally give up on his first love, he plays bongos with a hand-drumming group on Fridays at Brunswick Senior Resource Center in Southport.
Click here to see Maxie playing with a Latin band at a concert in Asheville, NC.