POP QUIZ: Which talented musician performed to a screaming crowd of more than 40,000 British Columbians this past long weekend?
a) Taylor Swift
b) SMUS student Ben Parker
If you guessed ‘Both’ you’re right!
While T-Swift performed at B.C. Place in Vancouver, Ben helped draw a massive crowd to the Inner Harbour for the 26th annual Symphony Splash, an incredible outdoor concert put on by the Victoria Symphony.
“Honestly, performing for a crowd that size was relaxing in a weird way,” the Grade 12 student says, looking back at his weekend gig. “It’s a little disorienting looking out (at the crowd) because everyone’s looking at you, but it’s relaxing because all you have to do is focus on the moment. With the orchestra behind you and the whole Inner Harbour in front of you, all you have to do is play your piece.”
For Ben, that piece was the Arutiunian Trumpet Concerto. It’s a flashy and exciting song he learned this past year that, according to the New York Times, is frequently performed by trumpeters in their audition for Juilliard. And Ben knocked it out of the park like a pro!
He first picked up the trumpet nearly a decade ago, when he and his family were living in Turkey. “My dad took me down to the music store and I tried out the trumpet. I made a sound on the first try, so I knew that that was my instrument of choice.”
It was when Ben joined the SMUS community in Grade 6, and started performing with the Middle School Jazz Band that he got inspired to really focus on his music. The exceptionally talented young musician now plays with the Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra and is off to Edmonton later this month to compete at the National Music Festival.
He auditioned for Symphony Splash’s Young Soloist program in June and, after being accepted, has spent much of his summer practising solo. His first practice alongside the full orchestra and Maestra Tania Miller didn’t happen until a few days before the big show.
“Sometimes professional musicians don’t even get to rehearse together before the show, so I’m really glad we got that,” Ben says. “It was really humbling getting to perform and mingle with the musicians; they all treat you like a musician – that was really great.”
The Symphony Splash concert is held every year in Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour. The orchestra performs from a barge in the water for a crowd of tens of thousands of people.
Ben says the show was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many reasons. The first being that few musicians get to perform from a barge where “you’re like a foot away from the edge. If you go over you fall into the water.”
But more importantly, it was the feeling performing alongside a professional symphony that he hopes to never forget.
“It was all a huge blur. Right after I performed, I decided I need to remember this whole thing and I tried hard to focus on everything. Being up there is very intense,” he says. “The feeling of playing with them, it was sort of like playing with a professional accompanist. … The sound of them coming from behind me was just amazing. During the interlude, between the sections where I played, it was amazing to just listen to them playing right next to me. They were playing with me.”
(video by Victoria Music Scene/photo by Hugo Wong for the Victoria Symphony)