We had the good fortune of connecting with Benjamin Krause and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Benjamin, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
As a musician, I’ve become used to a certain level of year-to-year uncertainty. Taking on and committing to the next project always involves a measure of risk, since we can never really know where it will lead (if it leads anywhere) and what the final result might be. I would even say that composing music is insanely risky. Creating art, putting yourself out there, it involves some kind of boldness and a form of bravery. When thinking about risk as related to my own experience, I think particularly to a time when my current job was set to expire and I had no immediate prospects for the following year. My wife and I were just planning to move to Chicago and try to make it work as freelance musicians. In a way, we were “forced” into taking this risk – I also threw myself into every opportunity I could find as a composer, applying for residencies, fellowships, and other creative opportunities. The sense of not having secure footing or a real “backup” plan was incredibly emboldening, and it ended up turning into one of my best couple of years as a composer. I did artist residencies at the Brush Creek Foundation (Wyoming) and at Copland House (NY), found some work teaching, and made some real headway in my own creative thinking.Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Like a lot of areas of life, my development as a composer and musician has felt steady at times, incredibly challenging and frustrating at others. I’ve had periods of intense artistic struggle – self-doubt, a sense of inferiority, frustration – which in retrospect resemble growing pains. That’s not to say these feelings don’t occasionally come back, but they are tamed (for the most part); when I feel doubt about myself it’s usually possible to direct these feelings towards the project itself and enter a kind of troubleshooting mindset where I’m figuring out what I don’t like about the creative direction itself instead of trying to figure out what my own deficiencies may be. I’m lucky, and perhaps am most proud of the fact, that I can consider myself a “musician” in a very holistic or general sense. Not that I’m a jack of all trades or can do a little bit of everything, but that I think of myself as someone who simply makes music – as a pianist, as a composer, a teacher, someone who sings in the car or the shower or whatever. There’s a famous English composer from the Renaissance, John Taverner, whose gravestone simply says “Musician.” For some reason I think about that a lot. The idea speaks to my desire to be an active, music-making member of a community. To be more specific about my own music, I’m proud of a lot of my music for piano (solo or with various other combinations), and increasingly, my music for voice. In the past year or so I’ve written two song cycles, and will be writing choral music for upcoming seasons. I’m also enamored with the orchestra, and look forward to writing more music for that medium.If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Houston is filled with my favorite spots. Many (not all) involve food and drink. The area around Rice University, where I attended graduate school, is really beautiful and filled with interesting spots – Hermann Park, art museums like the Menil, CAM, MFAH, and so on. I always just enjoyed walking around Rice’s campus, too. When taking out-of-town visitors around the city, a few food/drink spots were mandatory: La Guadalupana for breakfast or brunch; Hugo’s; Anvil for cocktails or Hay Merchant for interesting beers; getting pho or banh mi Midtown; or heading out to Chinatown. Too many other great options to list.Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’m incredibly grateful for the teachers I’ve had over the years. I’ve been really lucky to have such a wide array of musical mentors. Their words of advice – whether about music itself, or about career and life questions – have really stuck with me and have continued to be passed on through how I work with younger composers and students. My parents, also, were always supportive of my musical interests and training, from when I was really young, through all of my schooling and decisions to become a composer, to my career today. Lastly, my wife, also a musician (with overlapping but not identical interests) has continually been a source of inspiration, encouragement, and support – sometimes quite directly: as a pianist, she has played a great deal of my music!
Aimee Tomasek, Christina Giuca Krause