This poem describes the author himself. Warren Benson's sense of humor, appreciation of music, and zest for life can be summed up in these five simple lines.
Born on January 26, 1924 in Michigan, percussionist and composer Warren Benson attended the Detroit Public Schools, where he encountered the first two of four influential teachers in his life: Gerry Gerard and Selwyn Alvey. Then, in late 1943 and early 1944, during his freshman and sophomore years at the University of Michigan, he studied with Jack Ledingham and Arthur Cooper.
During his high school years, Warren Benson played in the High School All-City Orchestra and did a few performances with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Upon graduation, he enrolled at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he was asked to teach percussion. He also played third horn in the DSO. Benson was invited to become Detroit Symphony Timpanist in 1946.
Following a 14-month recuperation from a surgery that ended his professional playing career, Warren Benson returned to the University of Michigan in 1947 to finish a degree in music theory. He soon had his bachelor's and master's degrees and headed to Europe on two Fulbright teaching fellowships.
In 1953, Warren Benson returned to the U.S. and began a 14-year tenure at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York, where he taught percussion and composition.
While at Ithaca, Warren Benson wrote several pieces for percussion, including "Three Dances for Solo Snare Drum," "Streams" (a quiet ensemble for seven players), and "Symphony for Drums and Wind Orchestra." By 1965, Benson had stopped teaching percussion (while continuing to teach composition) to focus on writing music.
One of his first published compositions was "Trio for Percussion" (1957), which was also used for the ballet "Sky Chant," choreographed by Pearl Lang, an associate of Martha Graham in New York City. "Three Pieces for Percussion Quartet" was commissioned by Schirmer publishers.
In 1967, Benson was invited to become Professor of Composition at the Eastman School of Music and moved to Rochester. His students included Bob Becker and Bill Cahn (both founding members of Nexus) and marimbist Gordon Stout.
In 1994, Warren Benson was appointed Professor Emeritus at Eastman, to complete a 50-year teaching career that began in 1943 at the University of Michigan. On July 12, 1997, Southern Methodist University’s Meadows Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Jack Delaney, premiered and recorded Benson’s "The Drums of Summer" for wind ensemble, chamber choir, and six percussionists.
Benson was elected to the PAS Hall of Fame in 2003.
Warren Benson died on Thursday, October 6, 2005 at age 81.