Warren Frank Benson, was a distinguished American composer, conductor, educator, performer and author. He born on January 26, 1924 in Detroit, Michigan and at 14 was performing professionally while attending the Detroit Public Schools. Benson played in the High School All-City Orchestra and performed with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He was self-taught in composition and began a fifty year teaching career at the University of Michigan. As an undergraduate, in 1946, was invited to become Detroit Symphony Orchestra Timpanist and played timpani under Eugene Ormandy, Fritz Reiner, Eugene Goossens, Leonard Bernstein, and others. He was the major teacher for undergraduate and graduate percussionists and played third horn in the University Orchestra. His professional playing career ended when Benson returned to the University of Michigan in 1947. He finished his bachelor's and master's degrees with a major in music theory.
He was awarded two Fulbright grants to teach at Anatolia College in Salonika, Greece from 1950-1952. He organized the Anatolia College Chorale, the first scholastic co-ed choral group in that country, and established a five-year bilingual music curriculum. He then spent 14 years at Ithaca College and, in 1953, organized the first touring percussion ensemble in the eastern United States. He came to Eastman School of Music as professor of composition from 1967-1993. He was honored with an Alumni Citation for Excellence, the Kilbourn professorship for distinguished teaching, and was named University Mentor. He was appointed Professor Emeritus in 1994.
Throughout this period, Benson was 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.
Benson's compositions (nearly 150) tended to feature percussion and many have been recorded with significant performances in over 40 countries. His genre included solo instruments and voice, chamber ensembles, choirs, bands, and orchestras. His awards included the John Simon Guggenheim Composer Fellowship, 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 elected to the National Band Association Academy of Excellence and the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame.
In addition to his published music, Warren Benson also was a commissioned and published poet and writer of humorous fiction. Even after retirement, he continued to publish his works, including " …And My Daddy Will Play the Drums: Limericks for Friends of Drummers" in 1999. As an author and lecturer, Benson was in demand worldwide and his writings have been translated into Spanish and Japanese and he has lectured in Spanish and Greek. Warren Benson's bio-bibliography was published in 2005 by the Edwin Mellen Press. He died on Thursday, October 6, 2005 at the age of 81.