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Max the Music Man: Town employee discovers piano at Recycling Center

It was a typical trip on Friday to the Recycling Center for Robert Ruben, a physician and author who lives half the year on the Island and half in Manhattan.

He was taking a load of cardboard cartons to be recycled when he was stopped by a series of sounds. “Music,” Dr. Ruben said. “And it was pretty sophisticated.”

Looking for the source of the music, he saw Maksym Moroz, a part-time Highway Department employee assigned to the Recycling Center, near the cardboard machine, playing a Yamaha electric keyboard.

Dr. Ruben stopped to chat with Mr. Moroz, 26, and learned that Sunday would be his last day at work on the Island. A newly fully-licensed registered nurse, he was starting his professional career at Southampton Hospital.

Dr. Ruben wasn’t the first to be surprised and then enchanted by the piano music at the Recycling Center. “People have taken videos,” Mr. Moroz said.

He and his friend and co-worker Mike Gulluscio discovered the Yamaha about a year ago at the Goody Pile area of the Recycling Center, where people drop off objects or pick them up for free. “I’d been telling Mike I played, and even wrote some music, and when we found the Yamaha, Mike turned to me and said, ‘O.K., Max. Now prove it.’ I’ve been playing it ever since, but only when work slows down.”

He has an eclectic range of styles he enjoys, he said. “Music with a whimsical feel, waltzes, classical, and the music I’m written myself.”

His story begins in Ukraine where he was born, and then emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 7, speaking practically no English. But he nurtured a dream, which has sustained him for years.

The dream has been fulfilled, with his accreditation as an R.N. and his full-time job at Southampton Hospital. He had already achieved an Associates of Science in nursing (ASN) degree from Suffolk Community College. An added bonus when he got that degree for the boy who had to learn a new language — he was chosen by his classmates to give the commencement address.

Besides his schoolroom nursing classes, he received hospital training at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, and Long Island Community Hospital in Patchogue.

The Shelter Island High School graduate — he played varsity basketball and appeared in school plays, among other activities — went to work for the Highway Department in 2017.

His inspiration to become a nurse came from his mother Olha Michalak and his aunt Cynthia Michalak, both nurses. “And I’ve always liked science,” Mr. Moroz said, “especially health science.”

At times his studies seemed overwhelming, he said. “But when I started working in hospitals, with real hands-on, and working with all the professionals, I loved it, and thought, ‘This is doable.’”

He’d like to pursue psychiatric nursing. “I love psychology.”

Mr. Moroz came from  the city of Kherson in Ukraine. The war there, beginning in February 2022, shattered his mother for a long time, he said, with the first few months of the war producing endless tears. “She had a plane ticket to go back to Ukraine just as the invasion started and had to cancel.”

Her son’s progress has brought joy to Ms. Michalak, she told the Reporter. “I’m extremely proud of my son,” she said. “Despite the challenge of juggling work and studies, Max persevered and matured in the process. I always knew he would make an excellent nurse given his ability to approach people with kindness and compassion. I can’t wait to see Max in his new role as a medical professional.”

Highway Superintendent Ken Lewis said that while it was hard to lose such a good employee as Mr. Moroz, “I’m extremely happy for Max to start this next phase of life and begin his new career in nursing. Southampton Hospital is lucky to have him.”

Mr. Lewis has known him for a number of years, adding, “He interacts very well with the public, he’s always polite, kind, and respectful. All things that will translate very well to his new career as an R.N. And I have a great deal of admiration for Max who has worked very hard for the Department while putting himself through nursing school.”

Mr. Moroz is going to be busy, he said, working long shifts at the hospital. But music will still be a significant part of his life. He started out learning the alto sax, and when he mastered that, turned to piano. And now he has some future plans.

“Hopefully, with my new salary, I’ll be able to buy some more instruments,” he said.

He’ll find the time to play.

(Credit: Mike Gulluscio)