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 St. Clair Shores resident Ben Henri is participating in the “Jeopardy!” Teachers Tournament. He taped the tournament in February, when he met host Alex Trebek.

St. Clair Shores resident Ben Henri is participating in the “Jeopardy!” Teachers Tournament. He taped the tournament in February, when he met host Alex Trebek.

Photo provided by Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

Local music teacher headed to ‘Jeopardy!’ semifinals

By: Kristyne E. Demske | C&G Newspapers | Published May 29, 2020


ST. CLAIR SHORES/GROSSE POINTES — Kicking off the game with “Choir Practice” for $200, a local vocal music teacher ended his first stint on “Jeopardy!” Teachers Tournament quarterfinals May 28 with winnings totalling $23,678 and a spot in the June 3 semifinals.

A St. Clair Shores resident for the past few years, Ben Henri teaches four vocal ensembles at Grosse Pointe North High School, as well as the “Dude’s Choir” for 7th- and 8th-grade boys at Parcells Middle School. He’s been taking the online test for “Jeopardy!” for the past 10 years or so, and has made it into the contestant pool twice before, but never got the call to be a part of the show until the spring of 2019.

His luck almost ran out at the in-person audition in Chicago, though, in the middle of the 50-question timed test.

“I brought my own pen, which ran out of ink in the middle of question 10,” he said. “Fortunately, there was another contestant there that had brought another pen and tossed it my way. I don’t know that person’s name, but I am forever grateful.”

Henri made it into the contestant pool once more, and this time he got a call from “Jeopardy!” producers in January that he would be part of the Teachers Tournament that was filming in February.

His episode aired May 28 and began with Henri getting to pick the first question. He said that, with a category like “Choir Practice,” “of course I had to go right for it, but the downside was that I only got two out of the five right!”

The answer to the first question was a capella — Henri had been in an a capella group for years in college and said he doesn’t think he’d ever be able to live down the fact that he missed answering it.

He made another mistake with an answer to the first “Daily Double.” The question was asking for a capitol, and Henri gave the name of the state instead. 

But bouncing back is a lesson he tries to teach in his students.

“It’s not the mistake that matters, it’s the recovery,” he said. “I like that I had an opportunity to share that lesson with students on a much larger scale.”

He went on to take the lead in the first half of the game and headed into “Final Jeopardy” with an almost $15,000 lead.

“Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek said that the 15 teachers in the tournament were “all very young, but they’ve been performing well,” at the start of the show.

All around, Henri said the experience was great.

“The “Jeopardy!” production staff does an excellent job of ensuring that all you have to do is buzz in and answer questions,” he said. “The other contestants were just wonderful people. We’re all teachers and so it was easy to get along with them.

“I think everyone is so happy to be there in the first place and excited that some of the competitive nature falls by the wayside.”

Henri’s brother, Damian, an architect in Cleveland, was a 2-day champion six years ago. 

“He said, ‘You have got to get on ‘Jeopardy!’ He really pushed me and said, ‘Keep trying, keep trying,’” Henri recalled. 

Trivia is something that he has always enjoyed. He practices online daily and is also the coach of the Quiz Bowl team at Grosse Pointe North. He encourages his successful students to try out for the teen or college tournaments because he feels that it is such a great experience.

“This just happens to fit in this set of skills that I have: Years of trivia and also years of video games,” Henri quipped.  

Henri will participate in the semifinal round of the Teachers Tournament on Wednesday, June 3. The three winners of the semifinals will play a two-day tournament June 4-5 for a chance at a $100,000 grand prize and a berth in the next edition of the Tournament of Champions.