Music academy’s new leader is Lawrence native eager to return to city’s ‘arts and culture fabric’

photo by: Kendal King Banks

Max Paley is pictured in Arizona in 2018 with his ukulele.

A Lawrence native is returning home to serve as executive director of Americana Music Academy.

Max Paley, a musician with a degree in nonprofit management, began his new role on Tuesday. As the leader of the nonprofit, Paley hopes to get more kids involved in music, raise the profile of folk music in town and continue the work of the former executive director.

“I’m … really hoping to continue and expand upon outgoing director Rachel Black’s scholarship program, which is all about leveling the playing field and providing access to folk music education,” he said.

Paley plays guitar, mandolin, upright bass, percussion, ukulele and piano. He also sings. He has toured the national and international bluegrass circuits with the band Oakhurst, a bluegrass-rock group from Denver. He has a master’s degree in nonprofit management from Regis University, and, most recently, Paley held a leadership position and served as an instructor at Swallow Hill Music, in Denver.

He said Swallow Hill was a similar organization to Americana Music Academy, and it had a good early-childhood music program, something he hopes to focus on at Americana. He also wants to partner with local concert promoters to bring more folk music to Lawrence.

Paley is already familiar with Americana Music Academy, because he worked there as a mandolin instructor from 2006 to 2008.

“I can’t wait to get back,” Paley said of his return to Lawrence. He’s moving back later this fall. “I still have family there. My wife and I just had our first daughter. We’re really excited to get her back close to family.”

Paley is the son of the late George Paley, a Lawrence businessman who was also involved in the arts community.

photo by: Judy Gerling

Max Paley is pictured with his father, George Paley, in New York City in 2015.

“I look forward to reconnecting with all of the people that I met through my dad,” Paley said. “Being a part of the arts and culture fabric of Lawrence — I’m very excited for that opportunity, for sure.”

Americana Music Academy is currently operating remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Paley said it planned to be back in-person as soon as it was safe to do so.


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