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Ben's Story

Jazz Arts Academy Student To Perform at Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:

Press-roll, rim-shot, swing! Young Ben Figuly sat behind the sparked, copper colored, Gretch Catalina Club professional drum set and laid down a swinging groove for three consecutive nights. These were the #JazzArtsAcademy summer camp showcase concerts in Red Bank NJ. This young musician recently turned 14, but by all accounts, plays with an ability and sensibility far beyond his years.

Ben, along with 17 of his peers, ages 13 – 17 from all around the region, participated in the summer camp session of the Jazz Arts Academy. This is a year-round program of the non-profit organization Jazz Arts Project in partnership with the Count Basie Theatre. Each day they showed up at 10am sharp (not easy for a jazz musician) and were immersed in jazz music for the entire day. They played classic jazz standards In combos and big bands, and learned about improvisation, music theory, and the history of jazz. Through Ben's association with Jazz Arts Academy, He has been fortunate to have some of the best internationally known, world-class jazz artists as instructors and mentors. Alto saxophonist Bruce Williams, Hamond B3 specialist Radam Schwartz, and drummers Cecil Brooks III & Vince Ector have all played a hand in molding Ben’s emerging talent.

This picture shows Ben with famed drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie.

Soon after this Jazz Camp experience, Ben headed out to Cleveland to play a concert at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. #Jazz, however, is Ben’s passion. It is what he listens to and what he aspires to play professionally later in life. In this case, he has taken the advice from his mentors: “play as often as you can, perform as many different kinds of music that you can and don’t turn down any opportunities at this stage of the game.”

The Cleveland opportunity came when Ben was asked to join the teen classic rock/fusion group, Marel Hidalgo and the Stone Feathers. Marel, the band's 9-year-old lead guitar player, has been playing since he was 4, and has garnered much attention and national press as a young budding rock star. All of the current band members are young musicians, like Marel, and are from Monmouth and Ocean Counties. The band is fluid and ever-changing in terms of exploring genres and composing original music. They are spending the summer playing at festivals around NJ. This is Hidalgo’s second appearance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and it will mark Ben’s first appearance with the band. After this Ben will have returned to his "Jazz Roots" for more experiences and training with #JazzArtsAcademy.

Keep your eye on this young man. He is going places.

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