May 31, 2012 Edition
Young talent lives double life in West Seneca, New Jersey

If Ben Clifford hasn’t made it big by the time he turns 30, the musician said he’d still like to stay connected to the industry by putting his degree to use.

But the West Seneca resident could very well be on his way to stardom after all.
Clifford has gained much exposure in the last year since graduating with a bachelor’s degree in music technology from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.

There, he formed a band with fellow student musicians Nick Catania and Cliff Hults, adding its fourth member, Brady Cudmore, in 2011. The latter is the protégé of David Musial, director of the Music and Technology Department at Stevens. Musial is also a Western New York native with strong ties to West Seneca and Orchard Park.

The band, formally known as Specktrum, played this past weekend aboard a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier docked at Pier 90 in Manhattan. The gig was a part of “Fleet Week,” a longtime tradition in which active military ships that recently deployed overseas return to the United States and dock in a variety of major cities for one week.

The weekend performance was also broadcast live on “The David Webb Show” via SiriusXM Radio.
“I’ve never had an experience like that. It’ll be a cool thing to pop on the resume,” Clifford said during a phone interview last week prior to that show. He was passing through Times Square in New York City, on his way to audition for another band at a karaoke club on 55th Street.

The members of Specktrum get together about once or twice each month to play a live show, usually somewhere in New Jersey or New York City. They’ve also traveled to such places as Maryland and Washington, D.C. Their music has a pop-rock feel, he said, and the band performs mostly original works with an occasional cover song mixed in.
Clifford plays both electric and acoustic guitars with the band and also shares lead vocals with Cudmore. In addition, Clifford plays drums, harmonica, bass, mandolin, ukulele, saxophone and piano, which he began playing in first grade while attending Queen of Heaven School.
“I knew in high school once I really got into guitar that it was my passion,” said Clifford, a graduate of St. Francis High School in Hamburg. “I had to get into the field … I didn’t want to do anything else but make music for the rest of my life.”

Photo ©
Musician Ben Clifford of West Seneca is shown in this photo donning his coveted Buffalo Sabres T-shirt. He stands with fellow members of the band Specktrum: Cliff Hults, far left, lead bassist and vocals; Clifford, lead guitarist and lead vocals; Nick Catania, keys and lead vocals; and Brady Cudmore, drums and lead vocals. The band is based in northern New Jersey and is currently touring in select cities throughout the country.
According to Clifford, he’s already worked with a few people in the entertainment industry whom he deems a “big deal,” including one of Madonna’s former musical engineers.

The band itself is tied to Project Eleven, a musical initiative dedicated to young veterans who have risked their lives since 9/11. The “project,” of which Musial is executive director, consists of 11 former Stevens’ students who are in the midst of producing an 11-track album to be released this year on Sept. 11. All proceeds are to benefit a veteran’s charity.

Clifford said he enjoys his double life of performing and traveling — staying “wherever a couch is free,” he said — while also continuing to live at home with his parents in West Seneca. He offers private music lessons in the area and books as many acoustic shows as possible.

He’s performed solo since age 15 at such places as Nickel Creek Café on Clinton Street and Greyside Grill & Flappy’s Pub on Transit Road, both in West Seneca.

“I’ve always got a place at home,” Clifford said. “It’s really great to have that type of support, to go out and chase my dream … but I know there’s something bigger and better out there.”

Included in that dream is to someday play at Madison Square Garden. In the meantime, Clifford hopes to find a full-time job in music production in Manhattan.