Over the years, the Eastman School of Music has honored and remembered countless musicians, composers, conductors and many of the like in a number of concerts and performances. This year, as the school year comes to a close, Eastman will be honoring former Professor of Composition at the Eastman School, Warren Benson.

The life and music of Benson will be celebrated in a concert featuring some of Eastman’s finest musicians and musical professors. Set to take place on April 23 in Kilbourn Hall, among those featured in the concert will be doctoral student and mezzo soprano Yvonne Douthat, Professor of Flute Bonita Boyd, Professor of Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media Bill Dobbins and the ensemble of percussion Nexus.

Warren Benson was already at the professional percussion level by the time that he was 14. That he was well on his way and established as a musician at such a young age, was early evidence that he would someday be one of the country’s most honored and respected composers and teachers. From 1967-1993 Benson was a Professor of Composition at Eastman and was rewarded with such honors as the Kilbourn professorship for distinguished teaching, an Alumni Citation for Excellence and was named University Mentor, a great honor given out at Eastman.

During his time as a composer, Benson was – and now continues to be a legacy – best known for his moving song cycles and dynamic works for percussion and winds. Throughout some of his best composing days, Benson composed more than 100 works and his music has been performed in over 40 countries. A founding member of the Percussive Arts Society, he was elected to its Hall of Fame, as well as to the National Band Association Academy of Excellence.

“I am just happy to have the opportunity to participate in this concert,” Professor of Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media Bill Dobbins said. “Warren was a good friend of mine as well as a colleague whose work I appreciated very much.”

The concert on Sunday will feature three of Benson’s works: Five Lyrics of Louise Bogan for the flute and mezzo-soprano, Aeolian Song for flute and piano, and three pieces from his Alexandria Set for piano. This piece was originally composed years ago for Benson’s young granddaughter.

The contemporary percussion quintet known as Nexus, which features two Eastman alumni, will be performing Tongues. Tongues is an original arrangement of a traditional Zimbabwean melody. It features an African instrument that is known as the mbira which is traditionally linked and associated with memories of departed ancestors as well as with the experience of remembering special people or events in general.

“It’s a day of reflection, but also celebration,” Benson’s daughter Kirsten Hampton said in a recent press release. “It’s a celebration of the spirit that he carries with him as a human being, a musician, an educator and also as a colleague and friend to a great number of individuals.”

This free event will take place in Eastman’s Kilbourn Hall at 3 p.m.

Lewis can be reached at slewis@campustimes.org.



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