My name is Robert Max Stoffregen, and everyone has always called me Max. I am a composer, piano player, and teacher based in the SF Bay Area.
As a kid growing up in Contra Costa County skateboarding was my life and I spent much creative energy reinterpreting the urban/suburban landscape with a pirate-ship like crew of other “grom” skater kids. When I was 16 I bought an MPC2000XL sampling drum machine with my friend Lyle so we could make beats for our friends to skate and freestyle rap to. This morphed into a serious vinyl buying habit, and Lyle and I spent many afternoons driving around to random thrift stores buying records by the crate. I listened through dozens of records a week, ranging from Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers to Stravinsky, digging for that magical 4 bar loop that would make a perfect beat. I like to think that listening to so much different music in such a peculiar way is what turned me into a composer.
In 2012 I earned my Master’s degree in Music Composition from the University of Texas in Austin. Spending two intense years working in close quarters with serious ninjas like Russell Pinkston, Damon Talley, Doug Machiz, Marina Brankovic, Eli Fieldsteel, Joel Love, Josh Shank, and Steve Snowden (the list goes on much longer) was a truly educational experience that continues to inspire and teach me to this day. I loved graduate school so much I even petitioned to take a course on Environmental Law and Policy at the Law School, which significantly raised my awareness of the complex array of issues that come along with human management of the natural environment.
When I was 17, my second oldest brother Nate invited me to go on a backpack trip with him in the San Juan mountains in Colorado. Since then, I have walked about 2000 miles in 33 wilderness areas in the American West. In 2014 I hiked along the Pacific Crest Trail from the California/Mexico border to Lassen Peak in northern California. It was the best summer of my life, if such things may be quantified so easily. While on the trail, I realized that I could not have had the expansive experience I did if it were not for the efforts of many other people, from my family and friends who supported my desire to spend several months in a tent, to the “trail angels” who generously donated food, water, and rides to town, to the visionaries who created the PCT, to the volunteers who maintain the trail.
Music has been an immeasurable gift in my life. It has given me the opportunity to meet and work with incredibly smart and talented people and has engendered creativity and open-mindedness towards life in general. Its abstract yet expressive nature has encouraged the pursuit of ideas and the expression of feelings that would have been otherwise vexing for me to convey. My interest in the natural world has been an ever renewable spring of musical inspiration, and many of my compositions are inspired by things I have seen, smelled, heard, or felt while spending time outside. As a composer I have had the good fortune of working with a variety of incredible musicians from John Vanderslice to Friction Quartet, and I am stoked for every opportunity to practice my craft. I am grateful for everyone who has in anyway encouraged or supported my pursuit of an art-form that is often as obscure and challenging as it is beautiful.