Wichita's young sax player, Ben Kincaid-
He's "sittin' right" at an early age.

At age eleven, saxophone player, Ben Kincaid, sits in a position that many adult musicians would envy-- he's in demand.

Ben spent the summer enjoying a string of personal appearances at museums, coffee houses, pizza joints and fairs, as well as sitting in with two seasoned jazz groups- The Rick Meyer Quartet, and Ben Harris and the 9th Street Blues Band.

Now that fall has arrived, his time will be spent in a delicate balance between school and personal appearances-- "as long as it doesn't interfere with his studies," says his dad, Linn Kincaid.

Perhaps the most remarkable fact to note in Ben's story, beside his age, is the fact that he's only been playing the sax for about fourteen months. How did he come so far so quickly? Determination, love of jazz, and what appears to be a God-given gift to create music are the factors of Ben's success. Growing up around local musicians like Rick Meyer, and attendng jazz and blues events with his dad also had an influence. "My dad's been playing jazz for me on the stereo since I was born," Ben says. "I listen to other music, but jazz is my favorite-- it's my life."

That fact is obvious to anyone who has seen Ben play. You can tell that he knows and loves the music that seems to "come up from inside of him," as he plays with a smoothness and maturity uncharacteristic of someone his age. The audience sways and heads nod in support as he pours out tunes like "Equinox," by John Coltrane, or "Mood Indigo," "In a Sentimental Mood," and "Angel Eyes"-- a few of his other favorites, hitting the high notes with perfection.

Ben started making music while in fourth grade. He wasn't able to play sax in the school band, as he intended, because they only allow students in grade five and up to play wind instruments. So Ben decided to take private lessons, and a Selmer Paris-model alto sax was his instrument of choice. By the first month he had the chromatic scale down and was playing "Equinox." During the next few weeks, he mastered several other tunes.

Ben was then introduced to "Jamey Abersold Jazz," a teaching tool that utilizes sheet music with a recorded rhythm section. Because he reads the melodies, but solos by ear, this method gives Ben the opportunity to gain "real time" ensemble experience, and learn at the same time.

Ben sits in with the Rick Meyer Quartet. Growing up around musicians like Meyer influenced Ben's decision to play jazz.

Ben studies sax under Tom Fowler, director of the Wichita State University jazz program. His involvement with both Fowler and Meyer (of the Rick Meyer Quartet) has evolved into an ideal mentoring arrangement-- a situation that any college-level music student would certainly envy.

The crowning point of Ben's summer was competing in the 1998 Wichita River Festival Talent Competition where he won Grand Prize in the youth division ($500). Ben exhibited maturity in areas other than music when he used the prize money to purchase a new PA mixer to power his sax for outdoor gigs. He also uses his tip money to pay for his lessons and other instrument needs.

What's in Ben's future? He plans to attend jazz camp next summer with either Jamey Abersold Jazz or Jessica Jones, of the Youth Jazz Alliance. Beyond that he'll continue to strengthen his skills and enjoy playing his first true love-- jazz. But keep an eye out for the name Ben Kincaid. This is one young man that has a certain future carved out for him in the world of music.

Check out Ben's website.

E-mail Ben and his father Linn

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