Ben James Class of 2014
Traveling musician

I had the great fortune of being born into a musical family. All of my family members either sing or play instruments or both. My dad, Eric James, has been pastor of Mt. Hebron Baptist Church for 30 years. He has sung gospel music most of his life, so I learned how to sing gospel harmony from him. I grew up singing at church and loving the rich and interesting harmonies of gospel music.

With this tribute to his family and to his upbringing, Ben James is now taking his talents on the road and sharing them far and wide. He currently serves as the lead singer and guitarist with the world-renowned bluegrass band Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. I couldnt have started with a better band. Doyle is considered to be one of the great masters of bluegrass, known and admired all over the world. He is truly a master teacher, and I am spending much of my time soaking up all of the knowledge that I can. Everything he says and does is a lesson.

I graduated from Appalachian State with a BA in Risk Management and Insurance, and I worked in the insurance field for a while. But I soon realized that a desk job was not for me and that my heart and calling were in music. I am grateful, however, for my education and time spent in the insurance profession, because it helped me learn how to converse with all kinds of people, a skill that will serve me well both today and into the future.

I traveled to Nashville and spent some time working toward being a songwriter. One of my favorite singing groups has always been the Statler Brothers, especially tenor Jimmy Fortune. I was so happy to have the opportunity to meet him, and he invited me to sing with him on a Wednesday night at the Station Inn, which is a great live show venue. I dont really believe in luck, but what happened was that some of Doyle Lawsons former band mates were there that night. Doyle was looking for a singer. The next day I got a call, and I met Doyle on Saturday. It was that fast.

Being on the road certainly has its challenges and rewards, just like every other job. Of course I miss seeing my family whenever I like. I hate to miss family events like birthday parties and holidays, but performing for people is such a joy. I love the feeling of knowing that our group has worked hard and given a great performance. Seeing the smiles on the faces of the audience makes it all worthwhile. Our band travels all over the country, and before I joined, they traveled and recorded internationally as well. Hopefully that will happen again. I know that down the road when Doyle and I part, it will be as friends, and I will always be grateful for this experience.

Bens days at East Burke played no small part in his development. I loved East Burke. I made so many friends there. Growing up with them in middle school and staying with them so many years makes those friendships really valuable. I miss seeing them all the time.

I am also pleased to say that I have never had one bad teacher! My biggest influence, however, was definitely choral director Tina Lowman. I consider her to be a really cool teacher. She was an inspiration, and we respected her not only as a teacher but also as a friend. She made learning music fun and never failed to push me to the next level every day. Being in Chamber Singers took me out of my comfort zone and taught me a different way of singing, something that I needed to do. Its important for singers to learn about different types of music and to take on new challenges. Practicing blending with the other singers improved my appreciation of performance and gave me new skills that I can use every day.

One of my dreams is to become an established and successful songwriter, and I hope someday to have my own band. The music industry isnt easy, and its definitely hard work. But I know that persistence can certainly pay off, and I find great reward in knowing that the experiences that I am having today will contribute greatly to any future success that I may have and will help carry me further along my musical journey.

Published December 2020


Home Page