Arising To Serve: An Interview with Max Weigert

MAX WEIGERT 371x557While Max Weigert was volunteering at the Baha’i World Centre, he realized that there was so much talent amongst his fellow volunteers, that he thought it was a shame not to share it with the rest of the world. So he got together with a group of artists who wanted to put together a collaborative album of Baha’i prayers, Baha’i inspired music and Baha’i inspired poetry, and the result is Arising to Serve!

Arising to Serve is a seven track compilation album of Baha’i music and poetry that Max and his friends (including Andrea Hope, who we interviewed here on Baha’i Blog as well) put together. They not only want to showcase their art, but they want everyone to be able to use it as an inspiration and as a resource for your devotional gatherings, events and other activities. Best of all, it’s completely free!

I decided to catch up with Max to ask him a few questions about this wonderful service that he and his fellow artists put together.

Baha’i Blog: Hi Max. Can you tell me a little about yourself and your musical background?

I grew up in the Boston area and got my start as a musician playing drums at the Boston Baha’i Center for Sunday children’s classes. I was just a kid myself, but was playing alongside some great musicians. My dad is a professor at Berklee College of Music as is another Baha’i in Boston, Daryl Lowery. My dad would be playing piano and Daryl would be on bass, and I’d have to hold it all together with just my hi-hat and snare drum as early as age 6. Even though he was my dad, he treated me like one of the guys, and I would hear it if I started slowing down or speeding up. I remember a few tears on some car rides home, but it was an amazing experience to have at such an early age. From being in that environment, I had a sense of rhythm and time engrained in me that I rely on to this day. It doesn’t matter how well you sing or play if you can’t do it in time, and that was an invaluable lesson I learned while also getting to serve the Baha’i community.

Baha’i Blog: What was the idea behind the album and what were you trying to achieve?

With the album “Arising to Serve,” I wanted to give the many talented artists I had met while serving at the Baha’i World Centre a platform to mutually support and promote one another. From day one of serving in the Holy Land, I was amazed by how much creativity was packed into one community. Whether it was the monthly open mic night entitled “Open HeArts,” or one of the many musically based devotionals, there were so many opportunities to express one’s self. Therefore, my goal was to take all that creativity and put it in a space online where the friend’s could access their favorite devotional songs and works of poetry that they had heard at these open mics and devotionals. That way, when their service was up, they could then take these songs and poems home to share with their communities.

Arising To Serve - 350x350Baha’i Blog: I love the fact that the album is a collective. Was this an important part of the album and why?

It absolutely was. I’d seen many individual albums of friend’s music and poetry online, and I wanted to find a way to get them more exposure. Bringing all of these works together in one place, as well as making it free, made everyone’s job easier in finding new Baha’i music and poetry to inspire them. You don’t have to use a credit card and you don’t have to go to seven different websites. Hopefully, these free tracks established us as artists in people’s minds and they can then follow up on their own now that they are fans!

Baha’i Blog: Why do you think it’s important to put the Baha’i Writings to music?

As Baha’is, we always turn to the writings for guidance and spiritual sustenance. But as a musician, I found my spirit in particular received a special boost when I would listen to the writings set to music or play them myself. We know from the writings of Baha’u’llah that music is “a ladder which the souls may ascend to the realm on high.” So with that in mind, while I was serving and I found a quote or part of a prayer that really spoke to me, I would try and put it to music to share with friends at devotionals. Singing in a group is so powerful, so I set out to create simple yet fresh melodies that people could learn quickly and then share with others.

Baha’i Blog: How has the album been received so far?

As a relatively young and small community compared to the other world religions, Baha’is are always hungry for new music and art that speaks to them on a spiritual level. Therefore, when I put together this album with the help of some friends and we put the word out there in a few small ways, I was amazed to see the response. We’ve had over 4,200 plays off of the album and have exceeded our free download limit so I had to buy more credits for $9 — it might be the best 9 dollars I’ve ever spent! Just knowing our music and art is reaching all these people and touching hearts across the world is a very special thing and is why we do what we do as artists.

Baha’i Blog: What message do you have to other musicians out there?

I think as musicians, we do what we do because we love it. But ultimately, if given the chance, I think everyone would follow their passion if they could. I count myself fortunate to have the support and the opportunity to pursue music and I can only hope that my art can touch people’s hearts in some small way. And I’ve found that the best way to do that is by being as honest as possible with my art. If as a musician and a songwriter you can portray the most genuine version of yourself through your songs, then the songs will always speak to people because they have a fundamental truth in them. A famous jazz musician, Thelonious Monk, is attributed as saying, “A genius is the one most like himself.” So if I have any advice, it’s to find “your voice” that is unique to you, because honesty always comes through clearer.

Baha’i Blog: Will you be working on any similar follow-up albums or what are your plans for the future?

Since the album’s inception, it has already grown, and I hope that I can keep adding more tracks to it. A friend through mutual friends, Ali Youssefi, that I’ve never met in person, added a bass part to my track and then we added his song Amai Crearti to the album. I am also going to post soon a poem by a good friend of mine entitled, “How They Pray.” It’s about the little things we do every day that are acts of prayer, drawing from the Baha’i concept of work as worship. Therefore, I would love to keep the album an organic thing that can keep growing over time. For myself, now that I’m home, I’ll be attending Berklee College of Music and hope to make music my full time career. I found my niche once I started writing songs and I love the multifaceted nature of the art form. While writing a song, I have to sing, compose the harmony and the melody, and then also be a poet at the same time. It’s an amazing form of expression, and I feel the most “at home” when I’m writing songs. I’ll be recording this fall, playing shows, and hopefully putting out videos pretty consistently. I’m really excited for what’s to come.

Baha’i Blog: Awesome! We’re looking forward to hearing more music from you and the other artists on the Arising To Serve album in the future. Thanks Max for taking the time to do the interview and for providing the Baha’i world with this wonderful – and free – music!

You can download the album Arising To Serve for free here on Bandcamp.

About the Author

Naysan is the editor of Baha'i Blog and he has worked in various avenues of media for two decades. He’s passionate about using the arts and media to support and explore the teachings of the Baha’i Faith and he has produced and collaborated on popular music projects like the "DawnBreaker Collective" and the successful Ruhi-inspired sequence of "MANA" albums. His experience as a producer for CNN was invaluable while working on a number of special projects for the Baha’i World Centre, including the "Building Momentum" and "Pilgrimage: A Sacred Experience" videos. If there’s a media-related Baha’i project out there, chances are that Naysan was involved with it somehow!

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