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With his contagious enthusiasm, artist-educator Abel Maxwell captures the attention and interest of students with his passion for music and the arts, while also conveying humanitarian values based on self-esteem, trust, critical thinking, and respect for others. He studied at the Royal Conservatory of Toronto and the National Conservatory of Lyon (France). Maxwell has received numerous awards and honours including the UNESCO/International Humanitarian Fashion Week Community Achievement Award (2016), was nominated for Best Male Performer at Gala Trille Or (2015), and is the best-selling author of Transform Your Life, Business & Health.

Abel Maxwell leads a school workshop. Photo provided by MASC.

MASC: In your video interview with MASC, you said “we can learn to be better humans through art.” How have you seen this belief manifest in your life and work?

Abel Maxwell: I truly believe that art helps us develop essential soft skills and key aptitudes that are necessary for meaningful and positive human interactions in all kinds of life settings. I see this belief manifest itself every single day through my life and work, as art embodies thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Through art, it’s easier to convey messages of tolerance and collaborative efforts to foster a peaceful atmosphere among humans.

Your MASC workshops teach singing, vocal harmony, rhythm, and step-dancing. Aside from looking awesome onstage or on the dance floor, what skills do you think students take away from these workshops?

Through the lens of my experience, I have seen skills like increased coordination, improved memory, attention, concentration, socialization, and understanding through the activation of both hemispheres of the brain by maximizing learning. Moreover, students attending my workshops take away other skills like creativity, thinking on the spot, communication, and collaboration with others while improving their mood and reducing stress and depression.

Abel Maxwell. Photo provided by MASC.

Black Legacy Month is just around the corner! What thoughts and feelings come up for you at this time of year? How do you choose to recognize this month?

Black Legacy Month is always an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate great achievements of Black heroes in various domains, from science, astrophysics or medicine to history, law, music and sports. Since these heroes are not part of our school curriculums, it’s important to at least mention the names of people who have left an indelible mark on humanity. For instance, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Malcolm X have contributed a great deal to the fight against racism, violence, and oppression.

This year, I have chosen to recognize this month by releasing my fifth studio album, scheduled to drop on February 22 on all digital platforms. The release party will take place at the Université de l’Ontario français (l’UOF), with local media and people of influence as guests.

As a MASC artist, what do you gain through offering your workshops in schools and in the community?

It’s important to leave a legacy and to impact future generations with the knowledge that has been given to us. I hope to inspire youth with more creativity, flexibility and problem-solving skills through music and dance. Since youth are the future, it is necessary to create paths that can inspire them to make great choices for the sustainability of humanity.

MASC has been instrumental in building bridges between my art and schools. Many students have benefited from my workshops and have been encouraged to pursue greatness in whatever line of work they decide to dedicate themselves to in the future. And the connection extends beyond the classroom—some of the students continue to follow me on social media!

Why do you think it’s important for our local community to have access to professional artists?

I humbly believe that professional artists are a blueprint to creatively explore possibilities, including human values, in all walks of life. Having access to professional artists helps the local community to think critically, to be educated while being entertained, but mostly to be inspired to make a difference by fostering a passion for peace among humans, no matter their origins and beliefs. Professional artists help students to think outside the box or even better, to think without a box!

Abel Maxwell performs with students at École Samuel-Genest. Photo provided.