Fine Arts Student of Week: Musically-talented junior leads by example

"This is partially because I'm one of the few who knows how to play piano, but it's also — I don't really want to toot my own horn — but I think I'm a natural leader and I enjoy leading people," the junior said about his leadership.

Ben Karlgaard
Brainerd High School junior Ben Karlgaard plays "Moonlight Sonada" by Beethoven. The junior was named Fine Arts Student of the Week for his work in choir. Jennifer Kraus / Brainerd Dispatch

Benjamin Karlgaard

Grade: Junior.

Age: 17

Art focus: Brainerd High School Choir.

Adviser nomination: “Ben is the tenor section leader for A Cappella Choir this year. He is thorough, thoughtful, and leads his peers by example. As our ‘Most Valuable Tenor’ award winner, Ben helps the whole section succeed,” Choir Director Brian Stubbs wrote.


Memorable fine arts achievement: Going to the Minnesota Music Educators Association Festival last year with A Cappella Choir and being recognized by the state.

Artist most admired: Geddy Lee, bassist/lead singer for Rush.

Other fine arts activities: Bassist for jazz band; and I was in orchestra.

You were in all three music programs? I joined choir and orchestra in sixth grade. This is the first year that I haven’t been in orchestra, which was a tough decision. It was a scheduling conflict. I didn’t join jazz band until I got to high school. This is my third year as the electric bassist and it’s been really, really great.

Tell me where choir falls with all three? I love choir, it's like the best part of my day to be able to sing. It's just so uplifting and it just takes away all the stress and stuff from school. When I'm scheduling even for next year, I'm putting choir at the top of the list because I really don't want to miss out on that experience and stuff.

What do you enjoy about choir? It is the community of choir and then just the act of singing itself. Singing is really enjoyable to me. I'm not that good at, like an artist, for writing and stuff but this is my form of just being able to express myself.

Pieces you enjoy to sing? In Windfall we do a lot of jazz type of stuff and that's really, really fun because it’s like jazz band. It's that same kind of music, but it's really fun because the chords are really tight. The music is not like the normal stuff that you're used to from singing in a normal choir. It's just a lot of fun to put that together and stuff.

I’m not really partial other than that, I do like all music.


How did you receive the “Most Valuable Tenor?” This is something that's been passed on by the tenors for a long time. It's an old TV like a tube TV with the dialogue to change channels and stuff and it says Most Valuable Tenor on the screen. It doesn't work anymore. Noah Barnhart, a senior who graduated last year, was the one who had it. He came in and presented it to me and it was really a great honor because I sang with him last year in a capella choir. I really looked up to him as he was in Windfall and just knowing he thought I was valuable was really nice.

So next year, I will give it away.

How do you help other choir students? In cappella choir we do sectionals and stuff, so I’m the one playing the piano and going through the part with our section. This is partially because I'm one of the few who knows how to play piano, but it's also — I don't really want to toot my own horn — but I think I'm a natural leader and I enjoy leading people.

I try to be as friendly as possible, obviously as they are really my close friends. Being in multiple choirs and music stuff I have a nice ear for when stuff isn't right. I can go back and play it again and they give me input when they want to go back ... so it's more just being able to be the one telling them where and when we're going to practice and what part of the music we're going to practice and what we should work on.

How long have you played piano? I did lessons when I was younger, but I quit like half way through middle school. We have a keyboard at home so I’ve just plunked on it and still remember mostly how to play.

How did the solo and ensemble contest work this year? We are doing a solo ensemble, but it’s a little different this year. We usually practice solos with (Brian) Stubbs before Christmas break, but since COVID stuff has been going on, they really haven't given us any direction until a couple months ago. Stubbs gave us a choice of a couple solos that we could do ... so we all had our own solos and practiced with Stubbs a couple times and then we recorded it, I did mine last week.

Dream job: Epidemiologist. This past year is really what brought this career out. I’ve been interested in biology my whole life ... I don't know (if this will be my career) as nothing is set in stone, obviously, but, I think epidemiology would be something that would be really cool to look into especially because of the events.

Favorite movie: “So I Married An Axe Murderer.”


Favorite TV show: “The Umbrella Academy.”

Favorite book: “The Hobbit.”

Favorite song: “Freewill” by Rush.

Favorite band: Rush.

Favorite restaurant: El Tequila Mexican Restaurant in Baxter.

Favorite subject: Advanced Placement biology.

Perfect meal: Spaghetti.

Sports/clubs: Cross-dountry running, Nordic Skiing, tennis, Eco Club.


Hobbies: Biking, chess and reading.

Parents: Erin and Matt Karlgaard of Brainerd.

JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at or 218-855-5851. Follow me at on Twitter.
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