Warren, Benson

Warren Benson

Warren Benson has distinguished himself in the world of contemporary music as a composer, conductor, lecturer and writer; he is a musician who is as interested in writing music for orchestras, singers, chamber players and children as he is in exploring the complexities of the world of the artist.

In his compositions and international recordings, Benson is most noted for his song cycles and pioneering work in behalf of percussionists and wind ensembles. He has been invited to conduct his works in Australia, Canada, Europe, Great Bitain, Mexico, Scandinavia and South America. As an author and lecturer, Benson has also been in demand worldwide. His writings have been translated into Spanish and Japanese and he has lectured in Spanish and Greek. He also sits on the Board of Directors of numerous musical organizations, including the Minuscule University Press, the Chestnut Brass company, the American Wind Ensemble Library and the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles (WASBE).

Born in 1924, and a professional performer by the age of fourteen, Benson, early in his career, played timpani in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, graduated from the University of Michigan, organized the first touring percussion ensemble in the eastern United States (1953), received four Fulbright grants, and was the author and director of the first pilot project of the Contemporary Music Project (funded by the Ford Foundation).

More recently, he has been commissioned by over 80 major artists and ensembles, including the United States Marine Band, the International Horn Society, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the New York Choral society, the Bishop Ireton Symphonic Wind Ensemble and the Kronos Quartet. He has received numerous distinguished international awards, including the John Simon Guggenheim Composer Fellowship, three National Endowment for the Arts composer commissions and the Diploma de Honor from the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Argentina. After fourteen years at Ithaca College, Benson became a Professor of Composition at the Eastman School of Music where he was honored with an Alumni Citation for Excellence, the Kilbourn Professorship for distinguised teaching and was named University Mentor.

In 1994 he was appointed Professor Emeritus, completing a fifty year teaching career which began in 1943 a the Univeristy of Michigan. As a freshman there, he was the major teacher for undergraduate and graduate percussionists and played third horn in the University Orchestra. He is listed in the first edition of Who’s Who in the World of Percussion, 1980 to the present, as well as thirty other biographical dictionaries including Who’s Who in America and Groves Dictionary of Music.

Currently busy writing books, he is a commissioned and published poet and writer of humorous fiction. Almost an even dozen commissions for songs, chamber music and large ensembles keep him “retired to, not from,” as he likes to put it.