Assisting Director, Learning Support Services
Max Ho performing on a guitar at a basketball game

Max Ho performing at the UCLA vs. Arizona Men's basketball game on January 21st, 2023

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Sasnett/Arizona Athletics

Music… it permeates our cultures and our lives, and is seemingly all around us all the time. But, what purpose does it serve? How is it that, deep in our evolutionary past and already gifted with language, our forebears gravitated toward this other, decidedly more abstract form of expression? Might it not have been to decorate time in togetherness, sharing the depths of our feelings in timbres and tones that might communicate in ways words sometimes fail? Whatever the reason might be, we gravitate toward it, whether as listeners or as performers, in order that we might enrich our lives. For two students in the SALT Center, at least, musical performance has been an immensely rewarding pursuit, allowing them to connect with others through the uniquely transcendent medium of music all while gaining a greater appreciation for what they can accomplish through their dedication and hard work.

Max Ho, for his part, envisions his guitar studies as translating into a career in music, which would be well served by the business degree his is currently working toward. Max is already making great headway in that regard, having played a guitar arrangement of the national anthem for the UCLA vs. Arizona men’s basketball game on January 21, 2023, in front of 15,000 spectators. For Max:

The hardest or most stressful part was the buildup, because that’s when you’re the most nervous, but then they finally call you out and when I played the song there was no ounce of nervousness. It just taught me how much you have to practice…to be stone cold, like ‘I can do it in my sleep,’ but yeah, I finished the anthem, and when I put the guitar behind my head, I swear, the pulse, the stadium just erupted, like Michael Jackson just did some crazy move… it was electric.

This was a major milestone, and Max has set his sights on similar opportunities for exposure, having played at the Tucson Convention Center for the regional indoor football league, most recently, and with his next target playing for an even larger audience at an Arizona Wildcats football game this fall.

Sam Bever performing with his acapella group

Sam Bever singing with the Amplified Acapella group.

Photo courtesy of Sam Bever

Not everyone, though, has their sights set on a career in music, per se; some of us just want to keep it part of our lives, finding fulfillment, camaraderie, and joy in musical performance. Sam Bever, currently studying computer science and deciding between computer or software engineering, finds that he can be a bigger and more outgoing version of himself through performance, be it in theater, dance, or, most recently, as part of the University of Arizona’s Amplified Acapella group. As part of this group, Sam recently competed in the International Championship of Collegiate Acapella Southwest regionals, where Amplified placed as finalists overall and were awarded 1st place in the semi-final round, and second place in the quarterfinals. Of that experience, Sam shared:

We struggled a lot in quarters and there were a lot of things that we didn’t feel great about, though it was a good performance, the energy wasn’t great. Then, in the month leading up to the semis, we doubled down to become a cohesive unit… and that performance was overall the best we had ever done. We wanted this one moment, in particular, to crescendo and ring out, we were honing that, and trying to make sure we cut perfectly together…and in performance, it rang out for like 10 seconds and that was super awesome, because, that embodied the work that we put in, and it all came together in that one moment.

Sam also shared that it was Caroline Ragano, his Support Specialist at the SALT Center, who encouraged him to find the balance that allowed him to both keep up with his studies and continue his musical pursuits. He said that he is grateful the program helped him navigate what he once thought were two competing endeavors.

Both of these students and their musical journeys show us just how much music can add to our lives, whether we want to be a professional musician or simply share in a musical experience with our peers. Creativity, in any form, is the most human of pursuits, and we are so very proud to share what Max and Sam accomplished this last year. Bear Down!