Sleepy High School Freshman Makes History in Music

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by Tom Pedulla – 

Ben Poret poses with teacher Austin Day.

When Ben Poret was an infant, his parents, Amy and Hal, would stand at the foot of the crib, singing anything but lullabies.

“He was getting Pink Floyd and Cat Stevens and Yes and Paul Simon,” Hal said. “Whatever I could get on guitar and sing.”

Perhaps that helps to explain the source of Ben’s extraordinary music talent. Or perhaps he was born with a gift. Or perhaps his early success can be attributed to passion and hard work. Or perhaps it is all of the above.

However it can be explained, there is no debating Poret’s skill when it comes to writing and performing music. The Sleepy Hollow High School freshman created a hip-hop piece entitled “Mondays” that was one of 11 works cited by the New York State School Music Association in a recent Electronic Music Competition.

“I was dumbfounded,” he said. “It’s really an honor.”

Poret, who turned 15 in December, is the first student from the school district to have one of his compositions chosen in that category. He needed just two class periods, totaling an hour and a half, to compose it as an eighth grader. It only adds to his accomplishment that hip-hop is not his favorite style. He greatly prefers heavy metal.

“Actually, I wrote it for my class,” he said. “I just thought it would be fun to show off my skills in a way they would enjoy.”

Micah Sprague, performing arts department chairperson for Tarrytown’s public schools, said the composition exceeded hip-hop norms.

“Hip-hop can be a very repetitive style of music. He wanted to make sure he put some variation into his composition,” Sprague said. “He created this middle section that was really, really mature for a student his age. I’m pretty sure that’s why his composition was chosen.”

Poret was born into music. His mother plays the viola. His father still plays guitar as part of a band known as “The Posse.”

Poret began learning electric guitar when he was five. He added saxophone and plays that instrument in the school’s marching band. He estimates that he has already written 40 pieces while distinguishing himself as an honor student, running and swimming competitively, and volunteering at Tarrytown’s food pantry.

It appears, though, as if he has few equals his age when it comes to composing in a wide range of genres.

“He has an incredible ear for music, just naturally a very talented young man,” said Austin Day, one of his teachers. “He hears the full song before he begins writing, which is a gift not everybody has. I definitely don’t have it.”

Poret was in position to write “Mondays” because he already had breezed through class requirements.

“It’s really a treat to watch him experiment with sound, put things together exploring different genres and styles and putting his twist on it, which is a remarkable thing to do,” Day said.

Poret will eventually face key decisions as he works toward a music career. He thoroughly enjoys playing guitar and saxophone and has formed his own band, “Mostly Harmless.” At the same time, he recognizes how many talented performers fall short due to lack of opportunity.

“I’ve taken into consideration how hard it is to actually be in a band that becomes popular,” he said.

His extraordinary versatility would be an asset if he focuses on composing. “The idea of writing music for other people sounds appealing,” he said.

For now, he is a 15-year-old with promising talent and big dreams with just one pressing question left to answer. What is the deeper meaning behind “Mondays?”

“No profound meaning at all,” Poret said, shrugging. “I just felt like Mondays.”

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