Ben Grubbs has spent more than a decade playing for stadiums full of fans. After graduating from Auburn University in 2006, he began his career in the NFL playing for the Baltimore Ravens. He later played for the New Orleans Saints and the Kansas City Chiefs. But Ben knows that unlike more traditional career paths, he’ll retire from football long before age 65.
Earlier this year, Ben began studying with Berklee Online in preparation for an eventual career switch which will allow him to play for a different kind of fan. Until recently, Ben was an offensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs, and when he was placed on injured reserve in December, he decided to enroll in Berklee Online’s specialist certificate program in Music Theory. I caught up with him via email, shortly before he became a free agent. Ben was in good spirits and eager to talk about how playing in the NFL has prepared him for playing in a band.
Kayley Kravitz: How did you get into music and when did you start playing music?
Ben Grubbs: I’ve always loved listening to all sorts of music. The first instrument I learned to play was the trombone in the middle school band. Also, my wife surprised me with a keyboard four years ago as a Valentine’s Day gift and that started the journey of my learning, practicing, and playing music.
KK: How do you juggle playing music, studying online, and a career in the NFL?
BG: It’s very hard to study music as much as I would like to during football season, but I take full advantage of the months we have off in the off-season. Due to an unexpected neck injury this season, I had even more time than usual and decided to enroll in Berklee for additional training.
KK: How did you discover Berklee Online?
BG: Two years ago I had an instructor in New Orleans that was a former Berklee student. I remembered the name and decided one day to look into it.
KK: What do you hope to learn in your classes, and how do you wish to apply what you’ve learned at Berklee to your career?
BG: I hope to gain a deeper understanding of music overall and improve my performance skills on the keyboard and maybe even other instruments. Being at Berklee so far and having conversations with my professor, Dave Limina, has reinforced the notion that in order to be great or successful at any given thing, there needs to be time, focus, and energy invested. I intend to continue to carry that same formula over to the field.
KK: Are you currently playing in any bands or ensembles? Do you think what you’ve learned about being a team player in football helps you when working with other musicians?
BG: I haven’t played in any bands or ensembles but hopefully I’ll have time in the future to do that. When that time comes, I do believe that football has taught me a lot in regard to working with people from all walks of life in pursuit of a common goal.
KK: Who are your biggest musical influences?
BG: I love listening to John Legend’s music, as well as Stevie Wonder. Another influence of mine is my [Chiefs] teammate Dee Ford. I think what these artists are able to do on the piano is awe-inspiring.
KK: Who is your all-time favorite Super Bowl halftime show performer?
BG: I would have to go with Prince. I remember watching him years ago when the Bears played the Colts in the Super Bowl. He was phenomenal!
KK: Do you think that your experiences as a football player have made you a more disciplined musician?
BG: Absolutely. Football has taught me so much as it pertains to discipline. I’ve played professional football for nine years now and during those nine years I have been a part of a lot of winning teams. One common denominator that stood out amongst all of those teams was discipline: doing the right thing even when you don’t feel like it. There are many of times when I don’t feel like practicing but I know in order to reach my full potential I must remain focused and disciplined.
KK: You played on the Saints. New Orleans is famous for its jazz, so I’m curious if you got to experience that music scene while you were living there?
BG: Yes, we did! New Orleans has so much to offer, culturally. Every year there are multiple music festivals. My family and I got to experience Jazz Fest and Essence Festival while living in New Orleans.