BY JENNIFER AMY MYERS, Valley Dispatch Staff
Ben Cosgrove, a 17-year-old Methuen High School senior, has been playing the piano and composing music since elementary school. He recently released his fifth CD of original instrumental music: Kaleidoscope, which can be purchased at Bull Moose Music on Route 28 in Salem, N.H.
Q: When did you start playing the piano?
I started playing when I was 5, just messing around with the piano my parents bought. Then they decided to get me piano lessons before I screwed myself up too badly.
Q: When did you start writing music?
After taking lessons for about a year, I started writing music when I was about 6.
Q: What other instruments do you play?
I kind of pick them up as I go along. Like I said, piano was my first instrument, that started my interest. Then I took violin lessons in elementary school, and then picked up trombone, baritone, tuba, guitar, bass. Once you know one, it’s pretty easy to branch off.
Q: Are you in the high-school band?
Yes. I play baritone in the marching band and I’m also the drum major. I play trombone. I play tuba. I kind of just do whatever they need me to do.
Q: When did you record your first CD?
It wasn’t really a CD. I wrote music from when I was 6 until I was like 10. Some friends of ours decided they would help me out and let me record it. So I just went over their house, used their software and played through my songs. There is one copy. It is in my room and it’s like crayon covered. It’s never going to see the light of day.
Q: How would you describe your musical style?
I would say instrumental. A lot of people call it new age, but I don’t like that. It’s instrumental music, but it’s not classical so it’s new age. It kind of pools you with Yanni and John Tesh, which is not really a great marketing move. I do some jazz, some rock, pop, some new age. I don’t want to pigeon-hole myself.
Q: What influences you?
Everything I’ve ever listened to. When I listen to music, I pull what I want from it. I can listen to a song on the radio and whether it is a symphony or a pop song, I can find something that I think is cool. There is not one genre or one artist that influences me more than another. There are not too many instrumental icons.
Q: What is in your CD player?
I make a mix CD every month of whatever I happen to be listening to. I like Guster, Jack Johnson, a band called Nicklecreek. I love Dave Matthews Band. I try a lot of new stuff that people recommend, that usually ends up helping me. You get a more comprehensive understanding of music if you listen to everything.
Q: Do you think that instrumental music is more powerful than songs with lyrics?
I do. As a listener, you should adapt music to your own experiences, you should be able to connect to it in some way. Songs with lyrics have an advantage because they can literally be adapted, but with instrumental music I think you can connect to a raw emotion more accurately because without words, it is all feelings. It is more raw.
Q: What has been the most exciting moment of your career so far?
I did a concert at the library to help the Save the Music Foundation in June and that was a ton of fun because I was able to play a lot of my songs with all the right instrumentation for the first time. And when I was in seventh grade, Maynard Ferguson the jazz trumpet player came to Methuen and I got to open for him. That was cool.
Q: Did you record Kaleidoscope at home?
Yes. Downstairs I have a little studio set up. The CD before Kaleidoscope was called Forward Fall, and with the proceeds from that I bought this (pointing to a recording console). It has a hard drive in it. I can just load up all of the instrument parts (piano, banjo, drums, guitar, etc.) Having this in my basement was so liberating, because whenever I had an idea I could just come right down here. So, for that reason Kaleidoscope is the first CD that I am really happy with. I can listen to it with out cringing, because I have listened to these songs non-stop for three years. It had time to incubate and I feel like I was able to realize what I was trying to accomplish creatively.
Q: Where were your other CDs recorded?
The past four CDs were recorded at the Tenney Grammar School with Brian Fulks. He’s the band director there. He’s a great guy.
Q: What would be your ultimate career aspiration?
Basically to just keep doing what I am doing right now, but on a bigger scale. It’s cool to be able to sit at home and write songs and record CDs when you’re 17, but it’s harder when you’re 30. I really like learning how to do everything. I want to learn how to score movies, and just how to do everything.
For more information about Ben Cosgrove, visit www.bencosgrove.cjb.net.
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