By Christian TeBordo

The President’s Holiday Concert at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is an annual tradition that the whole community looks forward to. This year, that tradition is expanding, because in addition to the Rensselaer Orchestra and Concert Choir, the newly established Rensselaer Jazz Ensemble will make its debut.

Computer science and systems engineering major Max Rueda will be performing with both groups, because he has a very versatile instrument: his voice.

“I have been singing for as long as I can remember,” he said. He’s also played piano and alto and baritone saxophone, but he always returns to singing. “It’s a very simple goal of making people happy in some way and doing something I find fun to do.”

As a sophomore, Rueda will be performing in the holiday concert for his second time, and he’s grateful for the opportunity to sing with both groups. “The songs are very fun to sing in their own ways,” he said. But he’s especially excited to be part of the Jazz Ensemble’s first public performance. “I think jazz is the purest form of musical expression, especially the improvisational scatting and soloing, not to mention the very colorful and sometimes intricate harmonies, all of which I adore.”

Rueda also points out that the concert is an occasion to reflect on the fact that, even though RPI is focused on STEM, there’s still a lot of interest in the arts on campus. “This concert, I believe, proves that the music community at RPI is vibrant and deserving of support and attention, what with the immense talent and showmanship on display,” he said. “The holiday concert is also, obviously, an opportunity to support friends who have worked so hard despite academic or personal challenges.”

Those challenges are what drew Rueda to RPI in the first place. “I am someone who always looks for a way to exercise my talents and abilities the best I can,” he said. “RPI provided me that challenge, and I am taking it by the reins, struggles and all. I won’t sugarcoat it, this school can be tough as nails sometimes, but I know that this is a chance for me to show what I’m made of and learn something useful along the way.”

Much of that work will pay off at the holiday concert, which Rueda sums up as “a grand celebration of music at RPI.”