The Eastman School was saddened to learn of the recent death of Warren Benson, Professor Emeritus of Composition, at the age of 81.
Born in 1924, and a professional performer by the age of 14, Warren Benson played timpani in the Detroit Symphony orchestra under Ormandy, Reiner, Goossens, Bernstein, and others while an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. From 1950-1952, Benson was awarded two successive Fulbright grants to teach at Anatolia College in Salonika, Greece. There he established a five-year bilingual music curriculum and organized the Anatolia College Chorale, the first scholastic co-educational choral group in that country. After 14 years at Ithaca College (where, in 1953, he organized the first touring percussion ensemble in the eastern United States – and the second worldwide), Mr. Benson became professor of composition at Eastman. During his tenure (1967-1993), he was honored with an Alumni Citation for Excellence, the Kilbourn professorship for distinguished teaching, and was named University Mentor. In 1994 he was appointed Professor Emeritus. He also served as Distinguished Visiting Professor at Southern Methodist University from 1986-88.
As a composer, Benson is best known for his moving song cycles and dynamic works for percussion and winds. Composer of more than 100 works, his music has been performed in more than 40 countries, and many of his works have been recorded. Warren Benson received numerous awards for his music, including the John Simon Guggenheim Composer Fellowship, the Lillian Fairchild Award, a Citation of Excellence from the National Band Association, many ASCAP Serious Music Awards, and three National Endowment for the Arts composer commissions. He was a founding member of the Percussive Arts Society, and was elected to its Hall of Fame, as well as to the National Band Association Academy of Excellence. In addition to his published music, Warren Benson also wrote Creative Projects in Musicianship as well as poetry and humorous fiction; in 1999 he celebrated his 75 th birthday with the publication of …And My Daddy Will Play the Drums: Limericks for Friends of Drummers. Warren Benson is also the subject of a bio-bibliography by Alan Wagner, published earlier this year by Edwin Mellen Press.
A Warren Benson Archive is in the process of being established at the Sibley Music Library, and the Benson family will endow the creation of the Warren and Pat Benson Forum on Creativity.
Warren Benson is survived by his wife, Patricia, four children, and ten grandchildren.