Ben Hewlett, founder of HarpsCool

Areas: , , , Instruments Played: All types of harmonicas, jaws harps, trumpet, bodhran, didjeridoo...

For the latest news about Ben Hewlett visit his personal site at www.benhewlett.com

Ben wants to be successful – like this…

“The man is a success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who leaves the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had.” Robert Louis Stephenson

Biography

Ben Hewlett became a musician at the age of ten in 1969 learning the trumpet. He went through the school system of exams and performances, finally escaping the mandatory classical repertoire with the discovery of Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie. He was a minor third addict at fourteen and still has a passion for jazz and blues. He received a harmonica at the age of 7 and started playing it at the age of 27 having seen the Blues Brothers film a number of times..

Since then he has taught and performed with his harmonica on all continents except Antarctica.

He studied with Paul Lamb whose advice was to study Sonny Terry to get the rhythm, chugging and tone sorted out – years later Ben still studies Sonny Terry and has written three books on the subject.

The next significant player Ben met was Brendan Power. Brendan was joining Riverdance and needed someone to take over his three evening classes.

During the following two years of running these classes he qualified as a Music Workshop Leader and worked full time teaching music in different settings. He met Paul Lennon at one of the City Lit where Paul was teaching ‘ear training’ and ‘jazz harmony’.

Since leaving London Ben has gone into full time harmonica teaching. In 2002 he successfully completed the teaching qualification ‘Certificate of Teaching, Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music’ (CTABRSM).

By 2006 he had thirty two schools a week to visit with five hundred students – becoming by default the only full-time professional harmonica teacher in the UK.  His teaching business (HarpsCool) had eight harmonica teachers to spread the harmonica word. He has also run a Blues Band workshop for ten years to provide a setting for new harp players to gain band experience, also harmonica night school classes, Saturday ‘learn to play in a day’ courses all over the west of England, and continues to teach many private students.

Fun events 2000-2007:

  • Guinness World record for ‘Largest Harmonica Ensemble’
  • 100 Children dressed as the Blues Brothers playing the Peter Gunn Theme on harmonicas to an audience of 2,500
  • Introduced a school full of 350 children to ‘chugging’ in one day and had them perform to parents and staff
  • His students have received countless UK Harmonica Championship titles!

Recent study and Harmonica high spots:

  • Chugging is published by Mel Bay making Ben and Paul international published authors
  • A week of Jazz on the diatonic at the Jamey Aebersold summer school in London
  • A week of study in Germany (in Trossingen – home of the Hohner Harmonica) learning with Joe Filisko, Steve Baker, Rick Epping, and Carlos Del Junco
  • A week of study in the US at the SPAH.org annual conference where he received an invitation to teach there in future. He learnt with Richard Sleigh (whose custom marine bands are Ben’s main choice of instrument) Joe Filisko, Jimmy Conway, David Barrett, Phil Duncan, Alan Radcliffe Holmes and lots more experts.
  • A week studying with the extraordinary Howard Levy – best player on this planet.
  • A trip to Thailand to research the origin of the Harmonica – the Khaen. He filmed the making of these instruments and even studied traditional playing in Lao with Achan Kamsuan, the ‘by appointment’ Khaen instructor to the Thai Royal family!
  • Two talks on diatonic harmonica – one to students at NUS (National University of Singapore ) and the other to HAS – Harmonica Aficionados Singapore.
  • Teaching harmonica on the high seas on ten cruises for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.

The whole ‘CHUGGING’ idea was born and developed as the very best way to get people started on harmonica. Ben based it on Sonny Terry’s way of playing rhythms and his articulations.

With Paul’s talents and Ben’s drive and passion for teaching the harmonica, they have broken new ground and come up with an excellent method for learning the diatonic harmonica in a progressive way.

In 2003 Bristol University asked Ben to put on a ‘corporate’ team building session in a staff development week. It worked extremely well.

From this was born ‘Blues Jam Factory’. It is now a successful corporate team-building and training operation with a growing client base including DHL, Exel, Lloyds TSB, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Sanofi Aventis, University of Singapore, TBL, The Hemsley Fraser Group, Instant Teamwork, Novartis, Axa, Spice UK, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and many more in the pipeline including Shell, KPMG, Ovum and Centrex.

This typically one-hour event is available in all English speaking countries including North America and at sea on Cruise Lines. Contact Ben for a promotional DVD (or watch one at www.BluesJamFactory.com) to see how much this amazing program will energize YOUR company/group/social set.

Ben likes to do the odd solo performance in clubs, on cruise ships, pubs, town halls – anywhere people will listen really! – and occasionally a theatre show such as ‘The Good Old Days’ at the Leeds City Variety Music Hall.

He often plays in schools, in bands, at parties, festivals and jam sessions. The best idea seems to be play a couple of numbers, be brilliant, and get off!

He has started an ebay/amazon shop selling – guess what? harmonicas! It has it’s own site now – www.SonnyBoysMusicStore.co.uk