By Tanner Kent
The Free Press
MANKATO — Ben Marti is no stranger to the stage.
The New Ulm native and 2003 Gustavus Adolphus College graduate appears throughout the area’s music scene as a pianist and accordion player for a variety of groups.
He played accordion for the Pre-Apocalyptic Junkyard Orchestra — a now-defunct ensemble that earned a decoted regional following — and Cafe au Lait, Marti’s latest project that melds jazz sensibilities with tango, gypsy and classical traits.
He also plays the piano, his primary instrument, in the Ben Marti Jazz Group and plays solo on Friday nights between May and October at Morgan Creek Vineyards.
Yet, even with all that musical experience, Saturday marks the musician’s first solo concert.
“I’ve never really put together a concert of my own,” said Marti, adding that his solo gigs at the vineyard are more about providing easy listening background music than displaying his own musical talent.
Saturday’s performance, however, will put Marti’s skills in the spotlight.
“I want to go back to my roots a little bit on the piano,” he said.
In 2012, Marti received a $1,000 Emerging Artist Grant from the Prairie Lakes Regional Art Council. Marti used the grant to record a CD showcasing his classical repertoire on the piano. Saturday’s concert will provide a snapshot of his work on the recording.
Included are Johann Sebastian Bach’s “French Suite No. 4” and Paul Hindemith’s “Piano Sonata No. 2” as well as Frederic Chopin’s “Ballade in G Minor, Opus 23.” The latter is a highly rigorous and emotionally tumultuous composition that demands a virtuoso’s skill.
“That’s the big piece,” said Marti, who recorded the nearly 40-minute CD at Björling Hall on the Gustavus campus with the help of Evan Bierer. “I’ve been working off and on with it for three or four years.”
Marti said the grant allowed him to reinvigorate his interest in classical music as well as expand his repertoire and performance opportunities.
“It’s definitely been a great experience,” he said. “It’s allowed me to set three- to five-year goals in terms of what I want to do with my music. It’s given me a sense of where I’m at and what options I have in the future.”