Local guitarist to play for Pope Francis

Posted at 4:11 AM, Sep 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-15 04:11:49-04

A Tampa musician is getting the opportunity of a lifetime, to play for Pope Francis during his visit to New York next week.

Most of the music Ben Pila plays is memorized. It’s muscle memory that’s come from years of dedication. It’s just one of the reasons why the Julliard grad was asked to play for the pope during his visit to New York, September 25th.

“The music director there called me and asked me if I wanted to play for the pope. I answered, of course,” he said.  

Pila told ABC Action News it’s the same music director who has invited him to play at 9/11 memorials since 2007. There he’s played for past presidents, and even shared the stage with other celebrities like James Taylor, Paul Simon and Yo-Yo Ma.

“Being in front of those people is amazing but it’s such a somber event it just humbles you,” he said.  

Pila says playing in front of the Pope brings new excitement. “Like most people I’ve told I’m playing for the pope, they kind of did a double take, and they ask, wait, who? and I’m like yeah, the actual pope.”

Pila practices at least three to six hours a day, fine tuning his craft on an instrument he’s played since he was 12. His job will be set the ambiance as the pope hosts a muti-religious service at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and World Trade Center.

Pila says they’re very strict about the music he’s allowed to play. “It can’t be too fast, it can’t be too happy and it can’t be too sad.”  While playing in front of big names is nothing new, Pila says he’s humbled and honored to share the stage with the pope and hopes his music will add to that experience. 

“I want to create an atmosphere where people can reflect and really and really get in touch with the space,” he said.

When he’s not practicing he’s giving back, Pila teaches private guitar lessons and he’s also a music teacher at Polk State Collage.

ONLINE: Learn more about Ben Pila and listen to his music at