This November, Ben Gillard will be heading to Sydney to perform as a specially selected Schools Spectacular featured artist. Ben is a Yass High School student in year 8 and has proven himself to be one of New South Wales’ most talented young guitarists. 

Ben’s audition process involved several performances, kicking off with recording himself playing two different songs and sending them to the Schools Spectacular judges.

Ben then waited six weeks before being told the thrilling news that he had gotten through the first stage. After that, Ben travelled to Sydney for the live audition. A panel of four judges watched him perform, and a week later, gave him even more fantastic news that he had got in and would be a featured artist this year. 

“I got through that too, it was really awesome. I was just so excited, I didn’t really know what to say,” said Ben. 

Ben is most excited about the whole experience of being able to play and be in such a professional environment around professional performers, musicians, and behind-the-scenes crew. 

“And also, playing in front of that many people, it’s just so amazing,” he added. 

“I’ve learnt the amount of work and preparation that has to go into a show like this. Everything behind the media stuff and TV, that kind of thing, it’s really cool.”

Ben plays a guitar style called fingerstyle guitar, which he explained is where a guitarist takes more mainstream songs and then arranges it for guitar with the bass, harmony, melody, and sometimes even percussion all together. 

“I enjoy listening to that too, my favourite artist—I play a lot of his songs— is Tommy Emmanuel.”

Ben has two guitars and has worked very hard to buy them. 

“How I got the money to buy my guitars is all by busking. I spent hours and hours out on the streets just busking. It’s a really very satisfying feeling when you are finally able to take that guitar home, I’m really happy about that,” he explained. 

“The guitar I’m going to be playing at School Spec and that I play mostly is a Cole Clark, and I also have a Maton too, I also busked for that.”

In the past, Ben has performed around three or four times at Yass High School during school assemblies. The school is supporting him by running fundraisers, including selling cakes to provide some of the money to take him to Sydney. Ben’s family have also been hugely supportive.

“Mum is giving up so, so, so much time driving me to Sydney and back. I think it’s almost 25 times or something like that; it’s amazing.”

Schools Spectacular is a Guinness World Record-holding arena event and is returning to Qudos Bank Arena this year with the theme Creating the Magic. Over 5,000 students from across New South Wales public schools will perform, from featured musicians and singers, dancers, bands, choirs, and other performers.

Tickets are still on sale and can be purchased on the Schools Spectacular website.

Southerly Jones