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Warren Benson (January 26, 1924 – October 6, 2005) was an American composer. His compositions consist mostly of music for wind instruments and percussion. His most notable piece is titled The Leaves Are Falling.
Benson was born in Detroit in 1924, and was a graduate of Cass Technical High School. He was a professional performer by the age of 14, when he 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.
Benson composed over 100 musical works. He is known for his moving song cycles and dynamic works for percussion and winds. His music has been performed in more than 40 countries, and frequently recorded. 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, Benson wrote "Creative Projects in Musicianship", poetry and humorous fiction. In 1999, he celebrated his 75th birthday with the publication of "…And My Daddy Will Play the Drums: Limericks for Friends of Drummers".
Benson's notable students include Michael Glenn Williams, Eric Ewazen, Claude Baker, Robert Paterson, Gordon Stout, John Joseph Davye, Paul Phillips, Roger Briggs, Martin Amlin, Paul Mack Somers, and Michael Udow. See: List of music students by teacher: A to B#Warren Benson.
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.