Profile:Ben Kaye Skinner

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Ben Kaye-Skinner (born 17 January 1987) is an American educator and composer, mostly of wind band music. He currently serves as director of bands at Fillmore Central Public Schools in Geneva, Nebraska.

Musical background

Kaye-Skinner starting composing at the age of 12, but began his formal musical education at Doane College, Crete, Nebraska. He received his undergraduate degree in music education under the direction of composer Jay Gilbert. At Doane he received training in tuba and piano but his compositional method was mostly self-taught. He also studied percussion, trombone, French horn and clarinet.


His first premiere came in October of 2005 with Variations of Grace. It and each of his other concert band works was performed by Doane's Symphonic Wind Ensemble. Their other performances include:

  • President's Fanfare, composed for the inauguration of Jonathan M. Brand as the 11th president of Doane College in May, 2006.
  • Tuo Edisni (The Caktak March) in October, 2006
  • Presidential Fanfare One Half Step Above Bbb (which later became Fanfare and Proclamation) in September, 2007
  • Fanfare and Proclamation in October, 2007 and
  • The Eucant March and Through the Looking Glass in April, 2008.

In his four years at Doane Kaye-Skinner also arranged for several ensembles, both instrumental and vocal. He has performed in brass quintets, choirs, as a solo pianist and as keyboard player in the jazz quintet PJ Brand and the Five Cent Weasels.

Musical Style

There are two distinct styles for which Kaye-Skinner is known: probably his best-known style is that of musical satire, a lá Charles Ives and P. D. Q. Bach. Seen best in his set of "Marches for the Preferably Deaf," he is notorious for warping the conventions of musical style. In Tuo Edisni (The Caktak March) he adds unexpected meter changes, delays melodic resolution, and samples a song by Dr. Dre. In the middle of the piece a slide whistle signifies the literal turning point, and the music is then played in reverse. In The Eucant March he adds more meter changes, a grand pause marked "uncomfortably long," radical tempo and style changes, and writes in performance gags such as the conductor drinking a glass of water and an optional pastry-eating.

The other style he employs uses broad chords and added tones. Among his inspirations he lists Percy Grainger and Eric Whitacre and their harmonic influences are apparent in his slower pieces. He tends to favor major seventh and ninth chords, especially in Variations of Grace.

In his adaptations and arrangements he likes to change the style of pieces and hide melodies from other songs. Variations of Grace includes two sections in which the hymn is in a minor key, one of which switches from its standard 3/4 time to 4/4 and also includes a melody from a song by Ben Folds. Für Elisa McGlynn takes Beethoven's very popular "Für Elise" and sets it in the key of A major (as opposed to A minor.) In his brass quintet piece Jesu, Joy of Man's Discomfort he takes Johann Sebastian Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" and removes one of every six eigth notes, leaving the melody regonizable yet noticably awkward in 5/8 time. He is also notorious for utilizing the main theme from Doane's fight song, Merrill Will Ring Tonight.

Finished Works

Concert band

  • Fanfare and Proclamation
  • Marches for the Preferably Deaf
    • Tuo Edisni (The Caktak March)
    • The Eucant March
  • Through the Looking Glass
  • Variations of Grace


  • A Sister's Wedding Blessing
  • Angels From the Realms of Glory
  • Fantasia on Christmas Carols; by Ralph Vaughan Williams, arrangement commissioned by Doane College in 2008.
  • Grace Amazing
  • Joy to the World
  • La Rosa: Flor de Amor
  • Tell, Good Men

Brass ensemble

  • Elegy; for brass quintet
  • President's Fanfare; for brass band
  • Jesu, Joy of Man's Discomfort; by Johann Sebastian Bach, arranged for brass quintet.
  • Trio Sonata, Op. 3, No. 2: Third Movement; by Arcangelo Corelli arranged for trumpet, trombone and tuba.

Other arrangements and settings

  • Canon in Dogg; for piano. An amalgamation of Pachelbel's Canon in D and Why U Gotz 2 Be by Allen Gilbert; written for Mr. Gilbert's wedding.
  • Für Elisa McGlynn; for piano.

External Links