Ben Kreuzer, W’22, was looking for a course to fulfill a cross-cultural perspective requirement, but the music class ended up sparking a passion for jazz, a love for discovering new music, and a habit of buying record albums at estate sales.

How did you develop an interest in jazz?

It was actually all because of the class I took my freshman spring, Music 035: Jazz Style and History. To be honest, I took it because I thought it’d be an easy class and it would fulfill the requirement. I knew nothing about jazz music going into it.

It’s one of the best classes I’ve taken as far as the instructor goes. Ben Oyler is just a great guy, really interested and passionate about music. So, it was easy to become passionate about as well.

Did this class change your approach to music?

When I was younger, I would only listen to what my parents listened to — mostly classic rock — and only stick to that. I wouldn’t explore much. That class taught me to go out of my comfort zone more when it comes to music or other things in life because there’s so much, it’s impossible not to find more that you’re going to enjoy.

After that class, I was listening to jazz, music from the 70s, 60s, and 50s. I started listening to foreign music: African, South American, Middle Eastern music. It broadened my scope and what I thought was enjoyable to listen to. My favorite artist is jazz pianist Herbie Hancock. I also like finding obscure stuff that speaks to me, like the Canterbury scene, British psychedelic jazz rock from the 60s and 70s.

Are you a music evangelist now?

I’m always playing music for my friends. I’m like, “Dude, I know you might not like this, but I’m showing you this.” One of my friends and my parents, I’ve gotten them to broaden their scope, which has been kind of rewarding for me.

Has music had a certain impact on you?

It allows me to be introspective. If I’m finding new music, I take the time to just focus in on it. It’s a very personal experience. I’m not usually with other people. I’m by myself exploring music.

I played the piano when I was younger, but I didn’t really care about it. It was more my parents wanted me to play, so I played. But now I’m playing piano, trying to write my own music. I’m going to learn how to produce more. It’s been very pervasive. Not to sound cliché, but the class has changed my life, honestly.

Ben with Jazz Bassist Ron Carter, a member of the Miles Davis Quintet, in Central Park

What I’m Listening to:

  • Herbie Hancock – Flood
  • Ronnie Foster – Two Headed Freap
  • Miles Davis – In a Silent Way
  • Music Inc. – Music Inc.
  • Gang Starr – Moment of Truth
  • Big L – Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous
  • Lord Finesse – The Awakening

Music recommendations:

  • Manu Dibango – Soul Makossa
  • Stevie Wonder – Music of My Mind
  • Donald Byrd – Places and Spaces

Posted: December 10, 2021

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