Ben beats way to music award

Ritchie Pickett | Bob Harding Photography

Cambridge High’s annual $1000 Ritchie Pickett scholarship for excellence in music has gone to drums and piano musician—and year 13 student—Ben Wiles.

Ritchie Pickett was a New Zealand country music singer-songwriter described by NZ Musician magazine as one of the country’s “kings of country rock.” The Morrinsville born artists died in Cambridge 2011 aged 56 and money from several memorial concerts was put towards a scholarship in his name at Cambridge High to help a student progress in music.

For Ben, that money is most likely going towards purchasing better equipment for his newfound enterprise: the drum lessons he’s started running for others in the community.

Drums have been a part of Ben’s life for nine years — ever since he watched his friend play for the primary school orchestra back in year four and thought: “this is something I want to try.”

From there, he picked up drums — followed by the piano in year six. This year Ben has been active in the Cambridge Brass Band and school jazz and concert bands and he has several Smokefree Rockquests and school productions under his belt.

Ben Wiles at the drums 

He has entered in the upcoming Smokefree Rockquest starting next month, as well as the national Youth Jazz Festival in 18 days.

As to why he keeps playing—and his aspirations for the far future—Ben is nonchalantly cryptic.

“I guess I’ll keep doing it recreationally and if it develops into something else which it very possibly could, then, well, we’ll see.”

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