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Ben Justis

Ben Justis

Director of Percussion, Lecturer in Music Theory and Technology


DMA, The University of Kansas, Music Composition, 2019
M.M., Colorado State University, Percussion Performance, 2016
BME, Colorado State University, Music Education, 2013


An active soloist and section player, Ben Justis has performed at the Aspen Summer Music Festival, Bravo! Vail, with the United States Air Force Band, and with the acclaimed Colorado State University Percussion Ensemble. He was a back-to-back winner of the CSU Concerto Competition and was a featured performer at the New York City Electro-Acoustic Festival. In 2019 he delivered a composition/performance on one of Harry Bertoia’s sounding sculptures for New York Museum of Art & Design curator Shannon Stratton’s talk at the Spencer Museum of Art. You can hear his drumming on Houseproud’s EP “Just Choose One,” Frank Nawrot’s “Enough is Enough” and Emma Piazza’s “Find Me Out.”

His compositions have been performed by the Portland Percussion Group, newEar Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, the Donald Sinta Saxophone Quartet and the United States Air Force Band among others. In the summer of 2019, he was the Composer-in-Residence at Denali National Park and Homestead National Monument of America where he took field recordings, presented to the public and worked on new pieces to be donated to the parks.

Also a conductor of contemporary repertoire, Ben has directed works with the KU New Music Guild, Helianthus (the KU new music ensemble) and newEar Contemporary Chamber Ensemble (Kansas City).

Ben was educated at Colorado State University (music education and percussion performance) and The University of Kansas (DMA, music composition). His chief mentors were Eric Hollenbeck (percussion), Forrest Pierce, Ingrid Stölzel and Kip Haaheim.

At any given point you might find him skiing, stargazing, camping, cooking or, most likely, making music in his hometown of Gunnison, Colorado.

Q&A With Professor Justis

How did you discover Western?

As a longtime resident of Colorado, I’ve long thought that Western would be an amazing place to teach at given its fantastic location and strong reputation. Moving to Gunnison truly feels like coming home!

What are some of the highlights of your career?

Getting to perform John Luther Adams’ “Inuksuit” in Aspen was artistically transformative for me. With over 60 percussionists spread out through the meadows and trees, the sonic bounty combined with the beauty of the natural environment made for an unforgettable musical experience.

What most excites you about your field?

The ever-blurring lines between composer, performer, project and venue, and opportunities for inter-disciplinary collaboration provide endless creative possibilities.

What is your favorite thing about the Gunnison Valley?

It’s hard to say; I can’t wait to take advantage of the incredible outdoor recreation opportunities that abound here and find ways to get plugged in to the community!

Courses Taught

  • Percussion Lessons
  • Percussion Ensemble
  • Steel Band
  • Theory of Music I – IV
  • Special Topics


Most of my creative work is self-published at benjustis.com.

External Professional Affiliations

  • Percussive Arts Society
  • Society of Composers, Inc.
  • Collegiate Music Society
  • Pi Kappa Lambda

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