Artist of the Week: Benjamin Poka


Artist of the Week: Benjamin Poka

December 13, 2023

WVHS senior Benjamin Poka is an active member of the district’s performing arts program, a true musical creator whose passion and practice have earned him numerous local, county and statewide honors. Earlier this year, Ben was one of a group of WVHS musicians selected to the (New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) All-State music ensembles. (<- click to read the story) 

Since Ben first dove into music in fourth grade as a percussionist, he hasn’t looked back! By sixth grade, he had found what would become his number one love — playing drums (specifically, the drum kit). 

“My brother also played drums and we had a drum set in the house, so I’d watch him play a lot. Then, I started taking drums even more seriously once I got to high school,” said Ben. “When I was young, I really liked the Beatles and how Ringo [Starr] played. So, I would try to play his parts.” 

Ben was also inspired by other bands whose catalogs are now considered “classic rock,” including Rush and Led Zeppelin. Not surprisingly, both of those bands’ sounds are built largely upon the powerful playing of their drummers.

“I listen to those guys a lot,” he said. “I’m also into jazz right now. It’s a lot harder to play because the parts are a lot more technical, and there are a lot of different techniques involved.”

Ben shared that communication is key to optimal collaboration when it comes to playing drums in a jazz ensemble — or any band, really! 

“When other people are doing their solo’s,” he explained, “you have to know what to play that will help build up what they’re playing.”

And, as dedicated as Ben is to developing his craft, he’s also dedicated to helping others. He puts his excellent communication skills to work as a peer leader, too, sharing his own knowledge and experiences with younger players.

“I help out as an assistant with the percussion section in concert band,” he said. “I really like helping out and playing that part.”

Music makes it into Ben’s free time, too, as he enjoys being in bands outside of school and writing his own music. He uses all of his musical knowledge to create his own compositions, including the piano skills he picked up during a few months of lessons. He has also taken on guitar, and is taking private lessons every other week. 

“When it comes to guitar, I like playing Radiohead songs,” said Ben. “I think all of their parts are really interesting. I really like Casiopea, the Japanese fusion band. Their keyboard player is amazing. I also listen to a lot of Billy Joel. ”

Ben used to be in a local band called Subway Tuna, which recorded a few originals.

“It was four of us,” said Ben. “Two used to be seniors here, and we would cover jazz songs or write our own. We got to play some shows around the area.” 

Ben is currently applying for college and hoping to continue following his passion for music.

“I definitely want to keep on studying drums,” said Ben. “I’m applying to college for performance, whether that leads to being a studio musician or actually being in a band.”


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