As one of the most in demand freelance drummers in New England, Ben Bilello can be seen at numerous clubs, concert halls and festivals with a wide variety of artists. Originally from Narragansett, Rhode Island, Ben began playing the snare drum in his elementary school band. As time passed, Ben became interested in learning the drum set, acquiring his first kit at age fourteen. His first significant exposure to jazz occurred around this time and he made the decision to study music at a formal conservatory. After graduating from Narragansett High School in 1995, Ben moved to West Hartford, Connecticut to begin college.
In autumn of 1995, Ben entered The Hartt School of Music, majoring in jazz studies/African American music. The jazz students were under the watchful eye of master saxophonist Jackie McLean. Hartt afforded Ben numerous opportunities in the areas of performance and study. While at Hartt, Ben studied drums and percussion with Ben Toth, Tony Leone, and Michael Carvin. He also studied frame drum and riq with master percussionist Glen Velez. During his time at Hartt, Ben was frequently called upon to perform with students, faculty members, and guest artists. In 1997, Ben won the Hartt Award of Excellence in Jazz Studies, presented by Professor McLean. Ben graduated cum laude from Hartt in the spring of 1999 with a BM in Jazz Studies.
After graduating from Hartt, Ben established himself as a noted performer and a much sought after private instructor. He has performed and recorded with many jazz musicians and composers of note; Mulgrew Miller, Eddie Henderson, Anthony Braxton, Joe Wilder, Branford Marsalis, Javon Jackson, Curtis Fuller, George Cables, Gene Bertoncini, Don Friedman, Charles Flores, Steve Davis, Nat Reeves, Jimmy Greene, Shelton “Fatman” Laster, Wayne Escoffery, Chris Dingman, and Dezron Douglas/New Jazz Workshop, among many others. In addition to performing with many renowned figures in jazz and improvised music, Ben has toured with the South American folk groups Viva Quetzal and Markamusic.
From 1998 to 2000, Ben was faculty at the Artists Collective, a non-profit arts school in Hartford’s north end. From 1999 to 2004, Ben was on staff at Riccardo’s Music Center, teaching in both their East and West Hartford, Connecticut locations. In addition to private instruction, Ben has taught classes and workshops at many local public and private schools, jazz camps and at several colleges and universities. From 2004 to 2013, Ben was on faculty at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, Connecticut’s top performing arts magnet high school, as well as the University of Connecticut’s Community Music School. Currently, Ben is a self-employed private instructor and clinician, accompanist and guest lecturer at the Hartt School, and a Canopus Drums artist.
Ben can be seen performing with his own trio, bassist Jeff Fuller, and vocalists Leala Cyr and Atla DeChamplain, among many others.