Amid jokes about killing the fatted cheesecake (we're vegetarians), Ben returned home this week from his trip to England with his band. He reported having "one of the best weeks of my life."
It's not surprising. His experiences included opening for some pretty big names, being videotaped and interviewed for a documentary on the Gateshead Jazz Festival, and sharing a meal with a jazz/pop idol, one of the few other veggie musicians present, who expressed an interest in his musical career. Pretty heady stuff for a 16-year-old.
So when he said to me, "I realized when I was over there that this is what I want to do. This is how I want to spend the rest of my life," I felt a need to remind him that dinner with celebrities and playing to sold-out houses are not usually the stuff of a beginning (or even veteran) musician's experience.
But that's not it, he assured me. As exciting as those events were, they were not the peak experiences of the festival. What moved him most deeply was being around other serious musicians 24/7.
He described the hostel where they stayed as cramped and primitive. Coming from a kid who lives in a small Brooklyn apartment where he doesn't seem to notice when the kitty litter needs changing or the dishes need washing, and who has stayed in zero-star hotels throughout Europe that featured moldy bathrooms and views of garbage cans, this characterization was somewhat alarming. "I didn't care, though," he said. Everyone played, talked, and dreamed music. He attended concerts and sat in on a master class given by a guitarist he admires. It was all music, all the time, and he was in heaven.
A few weeks ago, talking about this trip and about his band's upcoming gigs in the NYC area, he said, "You know, I complain about one thing and another, but really, I love my life."
Although music has been a passion since he was a baby (truly), I know that his career aspirations can shift numerous times before adulthood. My one hope is that loving his life will remain constant.