Benton Hess’s long career as an opera conductor and vocal coach began in 1976 as Assistant Conductor for the Opera Orchestra of New York, serving with OONY until 2002. He has also conducted for the Arkansas Opera Theater, Augusta Opera, Lyric Opera Cleveland, Minnesota Opera, New York Lyric Opera, Opera Theatre of Rochester, Washington Summer Opera, and numerous other companies. As a private vocal coach in Boston and New York City, his clients included Nicolai Gedda, Eleanor Steber, and Renée Fleming, and in addition to master classes in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, he has served as adjudicator for Metropolitan Opera regional auditions.
He has served as a faculty member at the Boston Conservatory of Music (1970-73); Boston University (1969-74); Hartt School of Music (1984-88); Mannes College of Music (1987-94); Rutgers University (1991-94); and as Marion Stedman Covington Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina at Greensboro (1994-2000). He has served as a conductor and vocal coach for the International Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv (1994-2000); musical director of Centro Studi Italiani Opera Festival and “Si parla, si canta”, Urbania, Italy; and the Tacoma Opera.
His association with Eastman began as a visiting professor of vocal repertory during the 1999-2000 academic year; he became a full-time faculty member in 2001, serving as professor of voice and musical director of Eastman Opera Theatre until his retirement in 2018.