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Alumni Spotlight: Ben Sollee

Alumni Spotlight: Ben Sollee

 

musician Ben Sollee leaning on an instrument

Ben Sollee, a 2002 graduate of Lafayette High School, is a cellist, singer-songwriter, and composer whose work incorporates elements of folk, bluegrass, jazz, and R&B. He's also a husband and father of three living in Louisville. 

Question: What is your fondest memory of your time at Lafayette?

Answer: It’s hard to choose one: impromptu dance parties in the cafeteria, playing cello in the stairwell outside the band room, being a part of the theater family within Lafayette and SCAPA, and so many more …

Q: What person, class, or experience at Lafayette influenced you the most?

A: Like so many performers, Ms. Labrazillo’s nurturing and demanding presence had a major impact on me. I did three shows with her: "The Wiz," "Lil Abner," and "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." She allowed me to explore every aspect of the production process and cast me in some fun roles. Those experiences resonate with me every time I walk into a theater.

Q: Did you attend college or complete graduate studies? If so, where?

A: I earned my bachelor's degree in cello performance from the University of Louisville in 2006.

Ben Sollee in high school, in a white T-shirt standing in front of a wall of photographs

Q: How did your education at Lafayette help prepare you for what you did in college and are doing today in your work?

A: It takes a wide range of skills to be a musician and composer in today’s world -- audio and video production, project management, marketing, etc. In other words, I don’t have the luxury of specializing. Lafayette provided a well-rounded educational experience in a large, diverse student body. I was challenged for sure and also enjoyed getting to sample a range of experiences with some remarkable teachers and mentors. As a result, I’m professional generalist, which is a good thing in a world changing this fast.

Q: What is a professional highlight of your career? 

A: I’ve been lucky enough to perform in some amazing venues and receive some wonderful recognition. However, my biggest professional highlight has been the privilege of spreading the good word about Kentucky to audiences around the world while supporting my family with my art.

Q: What advice would you give students interested in your career field?

A: For creatives looking to work in the arts, it is more important than ever to identify what lights you up. Find the resonance, and trust the resonance. In this age of automation, it will be the main way to show your humanity.

Q: What is an important life lesson to share with current students and future graduates?

A: The most radical thing you can do is to care for yourself. Not to be more productive or effective as an individual but as an aspect of nature, humanity, and the justice you seek in the world. It starts with you and your relationship to your body.