The Music of Milwaukee Radio Host Ben Merens
by Angie Mack Reilly 3.9.20
New Release! Listen to “Babylon” by Ben Merens on Hot Seat Records
A Master of Improv
Have you ever seen the show, “Who’s Line is it Anyway?”
It’s an improvisational comedy television show. One feature is that the actors are asked to make up comedic lyrics and a melody on the spot while a band plays music that they’ve never heard before. NOT an easy task!
I have always marveled at the show’s actors’ ability to do this. Decades of teaching music and drama has taught me that improvisation requires a heightened sensitivity and a rapid mind. Improvisation is done without any preparation. It requires having a wealth of knowledge to pull from as well as a bravado of spirit.
This is why I like to listen to jazz. In my opinion, jazz is one of the most difficult and advanced musical art foms to master. Why? Because of the improvisation. Likewise, stand-up comedy. It requires a high skill level of improvisation that is extremely difficult.
Like I was saying. Very few people have this high level of skill that entails composing music, creating lyrics and creating a melody on the spot.
Ben Merens has this skill.
Having been in journalism for over 30 years, Ben is somewhat of a celebrity in the Milwaukee area. Most people know him as the longtime radio host for Wisconsin Public Radio’s At Issue With Ben Merens on the Ideas Network.
As a live radio host, Ben has had to improvise on every program. He has literally spoken on thousands of shows without a full script. Again, not many people can do this.
I find it fascinating that Ben has taken this strongly exercised skill of improvisation and has applied it to music.
Ben came over to record some music recently and met my son Joshua for the first time. Within minutes of meeting Joshua, Ben created a comedic song complete with lyrics, melody and music. The song played on the ironic fact that Joshua is a baker who cannot eat gluten. Check it out.
“Yes. God must have a sense of humor you see. When a baker cannot eat gluten. I think that’s God’s stand-up comedy.” – Ben Merens
Ben explained to me that all of his experience in radio has taught him amazing focus and mindfulness. He is a keen listener which can be a rare commodity in today’s self-centered and busy world. In fact, Ben has written a book called People Are Dying to Be Heard. He is an experienced keynote speaker on the topic of communication. He conducts workshops that help people and organizations find their unique story or voice. His ability to understand people also fuels his ability to create on-the-spot songs.
“And the only constant in life is change. And we all must be willing to rearrange” – Ben Merens lyric from One Hundred Voices
People who have the ability to improvise are highly adaptable. They quickly adjust. They are keenly sensitive. Aware. Flexible toward change. Adaptability knows how to feed an audience while feeding off of the audience. Because no two audiences are the same, you will find that no two versions of Ben’s songs are the same. He adjusts the song to fit the environment.
Forget buying mood lighting at a party. Hire Ben to come and entertain your guests in a way that they won’t ever forget! I’m serious! Hire him to speak or sing at your place of worship, school, workplace or event. Ben has a long track record of connecting with audiences of all demographics.
The Background and the Vision
Ben and I recently started connecting after a music event that we both attended in Cedarburg. The more I have gotten to know him, the more I have appreciated what a gem of a human being he is. Ben loves people. Pure and simple. And he uses his talents to help others in a variety of creative ways. We have a similiar intuitive, improvisational and heartfelt manner in which we share our talents with others. We both understand adaptability or, as I like to call it, fluidity. Ben recently invited me talk with him about creativity on his Riverwest Radio show called Just Talking. You can listen to the link below.
Because of how creatively compatible we are, I thought that it would be great to work on a creative project with Ben. Since we both love networking, I thought that we should invite others who want to join us. It’s a bit improvisational. The musicians and singers will have to be adaptable. But we want to communicate a message as a performance public art piece. Not perfect. But heartfelt. Because a lot of people need a glimmer of light right now. Please join us.