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Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts | 501 S. Sapodilla Ave, WPB, FL 33401


Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts | 501 S. Sapodilla Ave, WPB, FL 33401


‘Me, My Guitar, and My Notebook’: Ben Krieger performs at SunFest

Theatre alumnus Ben Krieger shares his journey as a student artist
Sadie Kanter
Looking towards the audience, Ben Krieger sing his original song “Burden On Me” during his set at Sunfest.

Playing his own original singles and a cover of “Hey Ya!” Ben Krieger took the SandBar stage by storm as people gathered in swarms to hear this musician and his band perform.

Friday May 3, 2024 – Sunday May 5, 2024 marked the 40th anniversary of SunFest, Florida’s largest waterfront music festival. Among household names such as Nelly and Yung Gravy, Dreyfoos alumnus Ben Krieger performed on the last day of SunFest.

Ben Krieger went to Dreyfoos as a musical theatre major and graduated in 2022, crediting his love for performing to his older sister.


“I got into performing first because of my sister,” Ben Krieger said. “She loved musical theatre from a very young age. Up until third grade, I was just a boy playing football on the street, skateboarding and doing magic tricks. And I looked up to my older sister, because that’s what younger brothers do, and I joined her at our student theatre in Stuart, and very soon I started doing professional shows.”


Ben Krieger’s professional theatrical career took off early in his life after he landed a role in three Broadway national tours during middle school. Getting roles in Pippin, The Sound of Music, and Finding Neverland caused Ben Krieger to miss roughly his first two years of middle school due to touring around the country. 


After dedicating most of his young years to theatre, Ben Krieger wanted a break when he came back home in eighth grade from all of the acting, and that’s when he decided to write songs. While on tour in middle school, Ben Krieger explained that he had been practicing the ukulele and at home, he would harmonize with his sister to songs on the car radio. 


“Playing guitar, piano, (and) ukulele was all kind of self-taught,” Ben Krieger said. “They were something I’ve always had a passion for. And so with theater as my foundation of performing, I soon switched tracks to writing songs and whatnot, playing guitar and being a recording artist.”




Ben Krieger explained that he gained a lot of inspiration for the music that he creates from artists he grew up listening to, such as Ed Sheeran, Jason Mraz, and John Mayer.


“A lot of my focus has been on my lyrics. That’s always been a very important thing to me,” Ben Krieger said. “I don’t really b——- my lyrics ever. They’re always the center point.”


While some artists begin in a studio or the “box” with computer producing, Ben Krieger says he prefers a different method to creating his music.


“I think it’s important for me to write it off,” Ben Krieger said. “I write every one of my songs alone in my bedroom. Just me, my guitar, and my notebook.”


With a focus on theatre most of his life, it’s only fitting that Ben Krieger credits this Broadway musical for his inspiration to begin songwriting: Hamilton. Ben Krieger explained that while enrolled in Florida Learning Virtual School as he toured during middle school, he had to make a project on the three ways for heating something: conduction, convection, and radiation. 


“In situations like that, little performer me always wanted to write like a rap or a song, because at that time, I was listening to Hamilton.”


These musical projects continued on into high school. During his AICE English Language class with English teacher Peggy Mellon in his sophomore year, Ben Krieger had to do a class project in which he brought in his ukulele and where his classmates and himself performed a rap about a baseball player. 


“They did a whole musical project where they researched a Hispanic American who had a great impact on us,” Ms. Mellon said. “Then they had to write a rap song using seven different types of repetition.” 


But despite his passion for writing songs and lyrics, Ben Krieger explained that he often found himself as more of a mathematical person.


“In school, I always hated English or language arts. I always loved math,” Ben Krieger said. “But I ended up falling in love with writing at first because of the rhymes, and there was sort of a puzzle to that. And I loved puzzles and riddles — I’m a geek in that sense — and that’s kind of why I fell in love with writing. I think the first real song I ever wrote was in eighth grade. I wrote a song called, ‘The Sun Shines For You.’ It was just like a song about a girl that I had a crush on. It was silly. But I play it once in a while just to remind myself, you know, like how far I’ve come.”




“I had just come off of touring for two years, and I said I was done with theatre,”  Ben Krieger said. “I wanted to write songs and play guitar. That was my new thing.”


With his older sister attending Dreyfoos, it seemed that was where he was “supposed to go” and the next step in his path. But after touring during most of middle school and losing some of his passion for theatre, he saw this as an opportunity to rebuild this theatrical relationship. 


“I didn’t think I would rekindle my relationship (with theatre),” Ben Krieger said. “It was just a means to an end. But I ended up really being grateful for Dreyfoos because I still now professionally act again. I learned so much about who I was at Dreyfoos. I really found my stride at what I’m good at and what I love.”


Because Ben Krieger’s professional theatre career did not end in middle school as he thought it would, it continued into high school. In his sophomore year at Dreyfoos, he was sent an audition for a Nickelodeon pilot that was produced by one of his favorite songwriters, Ryan Tedder. Tedder was not only the lead singer and writer of American pop rock band OneRepublic, but he also has written and produced singles with Adele, Jennifer Lopez, and Taylor Swift.


“I was like, ‘I haven’t acted professionally or done an audition in so long,’ but Ryan Tedder is my songwriting idol, and this character plays guitar,” Ben Krieger said. “I’m like, ‘Maybe I should get back into acting this way,’ and I auditioned for it. It was like a huge open call for 20,000 kids, and I got it.”


Landing this role caused Ben Krieger to miss around a month of his junior year at Dreyfoos, right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, to go film the pilot in Atlanta. 


“Because of (getting this role), I got back into acting, and I got a manager and a team of agents again, and I started auditioning again,” Ben Krieger said. “And because I already had my foot in the door with the whole middle school acting thing, when it came time to apply for colleges, I knew I didn’t want to apply for acting. Because that Nickelodeon pilot had kind of gotten me back into that acting world professionally, I didn’t need to do the whole four years of acting school. So I decided, okay, I’m gonna go to school for music.”

Playing the final chord on his guitar, theater alumni Ben Krieger finishes his performance at SunFest on Sunday, May 5. (Sadie Kanter)

But looking into the future and thinking about college was not something that was constantly on Ben Krieger’s mind. He claims he was more of a “spur of the moment kind of guy.”


“I didn’t know what a GPA was until the end of junior year, when the guidance counselor came into our APUSH (AP U.S. History) class and was like, ‘We’re signing up for the Common App now. How’s your GPA look?’ And I was like, ‘What the h— is a GPA?’”


Despite that, Ben Krieger ended up applying to six schools his senior year. His top choices were the University of Southern California (USC) for songwriting and New York University (NYU) for recorded music.


“I got (in) to NYU, thank God, because it was such a great program,” Ben Krieger said. “I’m now going to school for music, but I’m also professionally still involved in acting, and that’s kind of where it stands right now.”




Ben Krieger attended SunFest as a child and said that one day his mom told him about SunFest’s openings for local musicians, and that he should apply. However, there was a problem: he didn’t have a band.


“I play a lot of shows in New York, and I’ve always played throughout high school at various restaurants on the weekends. It was kind of my job,” Ben Krieger said. “But those are different from playing shows and with a band. That’s the main thing with this: SunFest wants me to play with a band because it’s a big festival, but I’m so used to playing by myself, and so I never thought I was ready for that. I was like, ‘No, Mom, I’m not doing that.’”


However, Ben Krieger had a change of heart, and this past winter he submitted a video of himself playing with a band from his school. 


“I kind of forgot I did it, and then I woke up in New York one morning, and I had an email from SunFest saying I got picked (and that) I have a 30 minute slot at SunFest. I was like, ‘Holy crap,’ because I totally forgot I submitted for that.”


After being given his spot at SunFest, doubt quickly kicked in.


“I almost declined,” Ben Krieger said. “My initial reaction was all these anxious thoughts. It was like, ‘I don’t have a band. What am I gonna do with a band? Am I ready for this? Do I have enough upbeat songs?’ And then I called my mom and she was like, ‘I’m not letting you decline.’”


Ben Krieger reached out to a close friend and musician, Daniel Blair, who lived in Parkland, Florida. Ben Krieger and Blair had gone to the same summer program at Berklee College of Music in Boston and had a “special connection when it comes to music,” according to Blair.


“I was like, ‘Daniel, listen, I need your help,” Ben Krieger said. “I want you to be my music director for this thing. And we’ll find a band together, but they’re all going to be in Florida, and I’m going to be here in New York, and I would love it if every week you could host a rehearsal at your house,’ and he was all for it. You know, he was excited to play at SunFest. He loves supporting me. I love supporting him.”


So, while Ben Krieger was stuck in New York, Blair got the band together. The final result was a four person band consisting of David Blair playing the bass, David Blair’s father playing the drums, Ben Krieger playing guitar and doing lead vocals, and theatre junior Mason McGahey playing lead guitar.

Theatre junior Mason McGahey waves to the audience gathered around the Sandbar Stage Powered by F-150 Lightning. McGahey performed as a guitarist along with Krieger. (Sadie Kanter)


“Ben actually asked me to do this while I was on tour with my own band,” Blair said. “So we were on our way from show to show, and I got a call from Ben, and he was like, ‘Hey, would you be down to, like, play SunFest?’ I was like, ‘Absolutely, h— yeah.’ Ben’s been a good friend for years, and he’s so talented. We really make some great stuff together. We’re a great collaborative effort, so it was such an honor to do it.”


His high school English teacher Ms. Mellon attended all three days of SunFest this year but was most excited to see her past student on the stage.


“When I saw him on the lineup, I was so excited,” Ms. Mellon said. “I screenshotted it and sent it out to everybody through Facebook, telling everybody I knew to come here. He was the one person that I was most excited to see out of the whole lineup.”


But aside from friends, fans, and the occasional teacher, his family came out to support him as well. 


“This is Ben’s literal dream,” Ben’s mother, Tracie Krieger, said after his performance. “He wants to be a performer. He loves writing lyrics, and he loves to perform them for a crowd, and he’s never really been able to do that until today. And you can see how amazing he is at it and how much fun he has and how the crowd loves him. And I hope it’s the first SunFest of many.”

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Gavin Murray
Gavin Murray, Writer
Gavin Murray is a first-year staffer and coverage staffer on The Muse. Outside writing for the newspaper, Gavin spends his time at the beach, hanging out with his friends, and playing with his dog Charlie. Gavin also enjoys learning about the chaotic world, listening to music, and debating. Gavin can't wait to explore his passion of journalism as a staffer on The Muse
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