LILLEHAMMER, Norway – Ben Richardson’s hobbies are a little different than those of the average 17-year-old.
Instead of playing video games or shopping at the mall, Richardson spends most of his time singing, playing the cello and curling.
But for the Issaquah, Washington native, those are more than just activities he casually does on the weekend; they are crafts he has spent much of his life honing.
And it shows as Richardson is among the top echelon in each of those fields.
He is in Lillehammer, Norway, this week, representing Team USA in the mixed team curling event at the Winter Youth Olympic Games. Richardson is one of only four U.S. curlers at the second-ever winter Youth Olympics and one of 64 curlers globally to qualify for the competition.
It’s a drastic change from this time last year, when he was anxiously waiting to find out if he won a Grammy.
Richardson was one of three boy sopranos featured in a solo on the Seattle Symphony’s live recording of “The Shadows of Time,” which was nominated for Best Orchestral Performance at the 2015 Grammys. The recording took place when he was 12.
“It’s pretty cool,” Richardson said. “It’s good to put on your resume.”
When he was 5, Richardson’s mom noticed he sang a lot – and had a knack for it, at least as far as 5-year-olds go – so she signed him up for the Northwest Boychoir in Seattle.
To this day, Richardson is still part of the Northwest Boychoir, though his voice has since matured and he is now a bass with Vocalpoint! Seattle, singing contemporary music with other high school-age vocalists.
“When I got into the performing choir, which is the top level of the Northwest Boychoir, that’s when I started to do a lot of solos with the Seattle Symphony and other companies, and that’s when I realized how fun it was,” Richardson said. “I really liked performing so I figured the more opportunities I had, I got to perform in front of a live audience. That’s really what I enjoy most about it.”
While singing is the talent that led him to a Grammy nomination, it’s the one passion Richardson sees himself putting aside in the near future. Once he graduates high school next year – and graduates out of Vocalpoint! as well – he will stop singing in choirs and dedicate even more of his time to playing the cello and curling, and his dreams are big in each.
Richardson comes from a very musical family – his mother a violin instructor and his father a pianist – and began taking violin lessons from his mom at age 2. The next year he switched to cello and has stuck with it ever since.
Next year, he hopes to attend Northwestern University outside Chicago and eventually join an orchestra as his main source of income. Though whichever college he attends, he has one requirement: that it be near a curling club.
The ancient sport of curling is much newer to Richardson than cello or singing. He first tried the sport four years ago after his grandmother, who curled in the 1960s, told him about the Granite Curling Club of Seattle and encouraged him to attend a “Learn to Curl” event.
“I like how it’s really unique. Curling is not like any other sport,” said Richardson, who fell in love after trying the sport. “The more I curled, the more I learned how there’s a bunch of strategy and there’s a lot to the sport that I didn’t know when I first started. The more I played, the more I kept enjoying it.”
As he entered more competitions, Richardson met Luc Violette, the skip of the U.S. team in Lillehammer, and began to play on his team. Last April, the two approached Cora Farrell and Cait Flannery to join them for a mixed team, in hopes of qualifying for the Youth Games. They did just that at the U.S. Youth Olympic Team Trials in November.
The team completed round-robin play Monday, finishing with a 6-1 record, and is hoping to bring home Team USA’s first medal in the event.
“I’m really happy with how the team is doing, so I think we’ve got a really good chance to make it to the medals,” Richardson said.