It’s not every Maryland Smith alum who can blow away the judges of America’s Got Talent, earning a spot in the live shows. That’s a very tough crowd.
But for mentalist Max Major, ’05, leaving people speechless is just another day at the office.
Major performs at more than 200 events a year for top organizations, including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Lockheed Martin and the Department of Defense. His job is to wow audiences with his skills, which he describes as the “showmanship of a magician mixed with some cool psychology and hypnosis.”
His success on “America’s Got Talent” is the culmination of years of pursuing his passion for magic. At 11 years old, Major learned his first trick. Just three years later, a paid performance at his neighbor’s birthday party helped him recognize that a career in magic was in the cards.
“It was just that ‘thing’ that spoke to me,” Major said in a previous interview with Maryland Smith. “I realized that not only was this fun, but you can get paid to do this.”
After high school, Major faced a difficult decision of either going to college or pursuing a performance career full-time. He chose the former, intending to learn how to turn his love of magic into a business. At Maryland Smith, he found a way to lay the foundation for his career.
“When I was very young, I had a mentor tell me, ‘You can be the greatest performer in the world, but if no one knows your name, you’ll never work.’ I see so many performers who are great on-stage, but they aren’t getting big gigs,” says Major. “I realized the business skillset was just as important or even more important than my abilities as a performer. I saw the Smith School as my path to building a business.”
During his junior year at Maryland Smith, Major found a valuable resource in the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, which helped him put together a plan to book performances for large corporate events and eventually build the career that he continues to grow today.
“I was spending every extra second of my day at the Dingman Center talking to the entrepreneurs-in-residence and trying to fine-tune my business model as a performer,” he says.
Major encourages others whose passions steer them toward nontraditional paths to think about business school, and says attending Maryland Smith was one the best moves he has made.
“It’s not enough to be good at your craft. It would be great if merit and ability were the reasons you sunk or swam,” says Major. “But the truth is, there is a whole other piece to it – marketing yourself, finances, accounting and knowing how to manage your money.
“You can go to business school and pursue a nontraditional path and be better off as a result.”