Benjamin High a young musician from Freehold, New Jersey, developed a keen interest and appreciation of music by the age of five. He was born into a talented family of singers and musicians including his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and of course his brother Matt. Each either sang or played instruments. They all contributed to Ben’s interest in music, especially Matt. Music was in Ben’s “air”. In his home, the car, tv, movies, soundtracks, computer games, church, etc. As time went by, music influences came in many forms, but again, none more notable than those of his big brother. Despite the generation plus difference in their ages, they shared the same “ear”. Ben once said during a radio interview “I think I was the only third grader listening to “My Bloody Valentine”. He and Matt would often surprise each other with their new “discoveries” only to find they were the same !! While not always in agreement, the sharing was there and enjoyed.
When Ben was five he formed a band, named it The First Graders and wrote a song with the same title. He commandeered his friend to join the group and implored him to sing along accompanied by “air” instruments. Quite hysterical!! During elementary school Ben started guitar lessons for a time, but they eventually gave way to his own self taught style. This would be the case with many instruments to follow, preferring to learn at his own pace and in his own way. Before long he was playing keyboards, drums, acoustic, bass and electric guitars. His world and his life was becoming his music and his music was becoming his passion.
Once in high school, music had already become a driving force in Ben’s life. Enormous amounts were listened to, purchased, written and occasionally performed. Because of his discerning ear Ben realized that many emerging bands needed an outlet for their talents. As a result he and a friend formed the label Summertown Records. Using this label he created a mix tape of the month club the purpose of which was to showcase aspiring musicians. These mix tapes, which included a variety of genres, would then be sold to a growing list of his subscribers. Unfortunately, due to the constraints of school, his part time job, and a desire to get his own music career on its way, this project was set aside.
Ben began playing out when he was 14. His first shows took place in coffee houses, house parties, bowling alleys, etc. It should be noted here that Ben’s first actual performance took place in his church where he would accompany the children’s choir with his guitar during Sunday Worship. While he started out solo, eventually and through many incarnations of members and names, Green Arrows was born.
Green Arrows gained a following through word of mouth, shows and Internet buzz. There was much excitement in the air during this time as the shows became more frequent and the venues and crowds grew larger. The big break came with an appearance at the Stone Pony followed by other clubs including The Knitting Factory, Pianos, CBGB’s and Maxwells. Eventually as time and money allowed, Green Arrows began work in the studio which culminated in their debut CD “Matters”. Ben was 17.
Just as this wonderful, exciting, creative time was progressing, Ben began to experience a decline in his health. Month long episodes of flu-like symptoms and fatigue lead to a loss of interest in most everything, including his music. Many doctor visits later, there were still no conclusions and no diagnosis. There were short periods of feeling “normal” that would interrupt the “flare-ups” as he called them, when he would feel renewed and that life could be, in his words, “better, brighter, more exciting and more hopeful than before”.
The roller coaster ride went on for two years. It was an extraordinarily confusing and frightening time for Ben and his family.
No one could know what it must have been like to walk in Ben’s shoes and experience the minds betrayal of self. Huge ambitions, goals and dreams collapsing under the stress of things as simple as how will I get out of the front door? How does one go from passionate creator of music to asking how will I drive my car?
Everyone who loved him wishes his ongoing illness, paired with only brief intermissions of relief, could have ended differently. Ben was a regular young man……he played video games, spent time with friends, wrote music…..laughed with his brother. No one was prepared for him to go. Taken away in the infancy of his genius. He was 19.
“The Project Matters”, which shares the name of the Green Arrows debut CD has been established in Ben’s honor and memory. It is hoped that through the foundations discovery of emerging artists, Ben’s love of music, as well as his extraordinary talent, will become his living energy.
CONTACT US: KAREN@THEPROJECTMATTERS.ORG