Those who know me are familiar with the quick story I’m about to tell because it’s the one I tell whenever someone asks, “so, how did you get into singing in the first place?” It goes something like this:

Kala Maxym sings with the Long Beach Symphony

I was born and raised in West Germany (back when we still had an East and a West Germany – yep, I’m definitely that old). When I was three, and my family was living in Hannover, my mom and I were out shopping one day. Bizarrely, I remember exactly what the cobblestone street looked like where we were, though I couldn’t for the life of me point to a map and tell you where we were. A car screeched to a halt in front of us, and I sang out the note, perfectly in tune.

Diva in the making. Done.

The reason I have dedicated my entire life to music – being around it, creating it, bringing it to others, writing about its influence on our senses and our well-being – is because I can’t NOT do it. I’ve tried, believe me. I tried squashing the desire back in college when I decided that music wasn’t “brainy enough,” and so I studied Political Science (with music on the side, of course, because you can’t really ever give up being an artist when you are one). After graduating Barnard College (the women’s college of Columbia University in New York City), I went and worked for two years at the United States Department of Justice, Criminal Division in an office with the longest name on the planet: The Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training (OPDAT). An AMAZING first job, complete with Secret Clearance and Diplomatic Passport (and music on the side because you can’t really give up… you get the picture). I made it into a Master’s Program in Boston (at what used to be The Boston Conservatory and is now part of Berklee School of Music) and spent two years honing my craft. After graduating, I had several jobs in Young Artist and Summer programs around the country as well as one year of touring with Diva Opera throughout the UK, France, and Switzerland – a truly great year of my life!

After several years of pursuing an opera career, a whole bunch of things coincided in time and situation: my voice started changing (from a mezzo to a soprano), the economy tanked (we’re in about 2009 at the moment), and I had just returned from an unbelievably wonderful year living in England and had to refind my footing in New York City, a place I wasn’t sure I really wanted to be.

New York City.png

I’ll fast-forward a bit or we’ll be here all day but I began to become truly interested in our sound experiences while living in New York. By this time (we’re talking late 2011/early 2012, I was working at a VC-backed tech company, Smartling, and having a pretty great time at a robust start-up that was pushing the envelope and forging new paths in a new industry. I was still pursuing an opera career, but I was starting to wonder how else I might incorporate music into my life.

A flight of wine meets a flight of music

At the same time these thoughts were swirling around in my head, I began to take some wine classes, just because. I loved this idea of a flight of wine: four or five different tastes of wine that allowed you insight into a particular grape, vintage, winemaker, vineyard, country, etc. What a playful way to get more information (and more wine!). I began to think whether this could be transferable to music… could you create a flight of music and taste it? What would that look like? And why not add in other elements, such as cheese and chocolate, that folks are more used to “tasting” so the concept is more familiar, more full-sensory, and just more delicious and enticing all around.

I also got to thinking about how we grow up in our own cultural bubble (or bubbles) where our sensory selves experience a fairly limited array of inputs. If, like me, you grew up in Germany, the colors grey and green were fairly omnipresent, there were cobblestone streets everywhere and ancient history was all around us, it was wet a lot, there wasn’t a lot of spice in the food, people didn’t really speak English then so my aural experiences inside the home (in English) was completely separate than that of my experiences outside the home (school, ballet, shopping, etc were all in German). This was my experience while someone growing up in Cuba would have seen bright colors, experienced spice, different musical sounds, bluer skies, different fabrics touching their skin. It made me think about expanding this idea for people, really exploring and enlightening their sensory perception to the vast array of sensory experience is really out there.

I grew up in Germany, first in Saarbrücken on the French border, then up north in Hannover, and finally in Duisburg, near Düsseldorf, sort of in the middle of what was then West Germany.

Five Senses Tastings was born one day while walking in Inwood Park in upper Manhattan, and my mother actually came up with the name (thanks, Mom!) in late 2011. I worked on the business on the side while working at Smartling for three years, before life took me to Northern California for personal reasons. Those personal reasons turned out to be reasons I didn’t want to keep in my life for very long but I actually quickly realized that the Bay Area was not a good match for me. Having spent a bit of time in Los Angeles, I took a huge leap of faith and quit my job at Smartling and moved down to LA all in the same week in the spring of 2016. I’ve never looked back and have never felt more at home and at ease than I do here in Los Angeles.

Perhaps I now live in a place where my senses are blissfully bombarded on a daily basis with just the very best of what nature and the world have to offer, because this city is such a melting pot of sounds, flavors, and sights, and because there is an air of possibility in this town that makes this crazy idea something people actually want to experience.

More from Five Senses Tastings

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