High school was the time when Maximilian Friedauer took up photography and went public with his lifelong love of music.
The recent Cardinal Newman High grad, bound next month for Duke University, said his life changed for the better as a sophomore when he tried out for the musical “Grease.
“I was kind of a wallflower,” he recalled. “I wasn’t that social,” perhaps because he knew only one other student when he came onto the Santa Rosa campus as a freshman.
Maximilian got the part of Roger, a male lead. The experience confirmed how important music was to him.
“I absolutely love to sing,” he said.

Maximilian Friedauer of Sonoma heads to Duke University next month. Press Democrat photo by Kent Porter

His mother, Jennifer Gray, had long known this about her son. “She told me once, ‘I know when you’re sad because you’re not singing.’ ”
Maximilian did theater productions for the next two years at Cardinal Newman. He also helped start a ska band that played a school rally and a few lunchtime concerts.
In his sophomore year, he also took a photography class. He found himself enjoying the lighting and visual look of black-and-white photos, as well as the chance to observe and capture life in action.
“When I’m behind the lens, it’s really comforting . . . It’s almost like an escape for a little while,” he said.
One of his photos, a singer after a performance at a battle of the bands, won him a second place award in this spring’s Congressional Art Competition for the 6th District, which includes most of Sonoma County.
For his senior service project, Maximilian interviewed and photographed Afghan war veterans.
“I’ve always been interested in the military, so I wanted to go and learn more about them,” he said.
His project featured 25 members of the National Guard’s 235th Engineering Company based at the Petaluma Armory. What struck him was “how absolutely committed they were” to their mission and how they looked out for one another.
“Those guys had each other’s backs all the time,” he said.
The soldiers acknowledged different opinions about the war. Nonetheless, he said, “what mattered is they had a job, and they went and did it.”
His plans may change, but Maximilian is thinking about attending law school and pursuing a career as a military attorney.
“I love the theater aspect of the courtroom,” he said.
He also enjoys rhetoric. His mother taught the class at Cardinal Newman, and he acknowledged it helped make him a better writer. But she has long shown him the art of rhetoric by the way she answered his questions growing up.
Next month, Maximilian will travel to Durham, N.C., with his father, Oliver Friedauer of Belmont.
Having lived as a child for a time in London, Maximilian is now looking forward to meeting “all kinds of people” whose backgrounds are unlike his own. That was part of his plan in finding the right college.
“I didn’t apply to one school in California,” he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or

Age: 18
High school: Cardinal Newman, recent grad
Lives with: His mother, Jennifer Gray, in Sonoma
Favorite music: Ska bands Streetlight Manifesto and Surburban Legends, but also singers Frank Sinatra and Paul Anka.
Favorite films: “Starship Troopers,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs”
Job: Busser, cashier at the Sunflower Caffe in Sonoma
Pet: Steve Fanny Karen the cat