Talent To The Max

Posted: Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 1:20 pm
By: Doug Lund
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Can you stand one more blog about piano players?  This one is not about my feeble attempts as a kid to emulate Liberace. No, this time I’d like you to tell you about a South Dakota kid who really could be the next Liberace if he wanted..or President of the United States for that matter.

It was about ten years ago, I think, when my Keloland colleague, John Miller, and I were talking..okay BRAGGING..about our grandchildren. 

We weren’t intentionally trying to one-up each other but when he mentioned that his 11 year old grandson, Maxwell Meyer, was the house piano player at Roma’s Italian Restaurant in his hometown of Spearfish, he got my full attention.  I told John that I gotta meet this kid and do a story on him. John said that Max was coming to stay with them in Sioux Falls for a few days the following week, so we made arraignments to meet at their church which had a very nice grand piano. When the cameraman and I showed up for the interview and to hear the boy play, I confess to having the feeling that grandpa John may have been exaggerating just a tad.

He wasn’t!

This was how Max looked when we first met.

This was how Max looked when we first met.

After saying hello, the polite young man sat down to the keyboard and my jaw dropped as he began to play a song he’d written himself! I was dumbfounded  to see and hear such grown-up music flow from the touch of his little 11 year old fingers. I looked at John and he was smiling as if to say, “See I told ya.” Max continued to play as the camera rolled. Like a seasoned pro, he went from classical to pop to gospel and jazz without missing a note.

 When Max was 6, his parents, Clint and Deb Meyer, bought him an electronic keyboard for Christmas and were more than a little shocked when almost immediately he began picking out melodies on his own.  Suspecting they had a prodigy on their hands, Clint and Deb arranged for music lessons and a bigger piano.Max soaked up songs like a sponge and by the age of ten had released his first CD and was working on a second when we met.

“I assume that you plan to make music your life,” I said to Max after we sat down for an interview following his impromptu concert. “Well I do like performing,” he said. “And I really love to compose music but I also like school and sports.” It turns out that Max was an exceptional student and was already pondering a career in medicine, a brain surgeon. As for his talent, the youngster’s humble assessment was that it was simply a gift from God.

For some reason, I got to thinking about that interview last week and decided to call his grandpa John to find out what Max was up to.

Maxwell-Meyer_largeWell, It turns out that a wealthy benefactor who had heard Max play and was aware of his superior scholastic skills offered to pay the boy’s tuition to the prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts where he finished out his last two years of high school graduating with honors in 2008. Today, Max is a junior at Harvard where he has concentrated on Economics and East Asian studies. Plus last summer he interned at the Winston Group in Washington..a firm specializing in political polling and strategy. He also worked for CNN’s top political analyst, David Gergen. Oh, yeah, he’s still very much involved in music at Harvard..composing all the time and performing as often as he can. In fact, late last year, he was invited to speak at a gathering of Phillips Academy supporters in New York City.  Max gave an eloquent talk at the podium for a few minutes..then stepped over to the piano and dazzled the audience, in their tuxedos and evening gowns, with a little jazz. To see it  click on this website: http://www.facebook.com/phillipsacademy/posts/190609120949517

It’ll be interesting to follow Maxwell Livingston Meyer as life continues to unfold for this “Wunderkind” from Spearfish;  Politician..Economist..Physician..Musician..it would seem that all  doors are open to him. When I  talked to his grandpa John, he said Max is still the same humble kid I interviewed back in 2002 who knows he’s been blessed and is determined to not waste any of his gifts.

One more thing,  John also said that when he last talked to his grandson, he was still excited about the hole-in-one he got at the Chevy Chase Golf Club in Washington last summer..his first.

Okay, God..isn’t that overdoing it a little?


  1. Pam says:

    What a great story and an amazing young man.

  2. Max Meyer says:


    This was forwarded to me by a friend, and has me grinning from ear to ear. You are far too kind!

    I want to respond publicly with my deepest thanks for all your support over the years. I have never forgotten our interview in the Faith Baptist Church all that time ago, and indeed your encouragement and kindness that day has remained with me ever since.

    To say that your impact in journalism and the broader South Dakota community has been significant would be to understate. Since leaving for college I’ve followed your work (KELO is my cherished link to South Dakota happenings), and have a profound amount of respect for your wit, intelligence and uncompromising professionalism. You have touched so many lives over the years, and I feel so honored to still be a part of your reporting all these years later.

    Would love to host you for a round of golf out east, anytime anyplace. Can’t promise a hole-in-one though…

    God Bless,

    Maxwell Meyer
    Cambridge, MA
    (Spearfish, SD)

  3. R. says:

    One of the greats.

  4. Derrold says:

    Doug, I have also heard Max some years ago and enjoyed his music. Good to hear what Max
    is doing and didn’t realize it was that many years ago. Great Kid and talent.

    Enjoy your blogs, keep them up.

  5. Linda says:

    Wow great story Doug. Great video also. Makes one proud to be from the midwest. Good Job Max!

  6. Alice Nisk says:

    We saw Maxwell perform a piano concert at Rhinelander, Wisconsin when he was 15. It was marvelous and we have all 3 of his CD’s. We talked to his mother and so new some of his history. I have often thought about him and wondered where life has taken him. I was so pleased to read your story about him. At 15 he was so mature and poised, it was hard to believe he was that young. A very exceptional young man.

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