Behind Resonance: Bennett’s Musical Journey Strikes a Chord

Meet Bennett, a talented percussionist at The People’s Music School whose hard work and creativity shine through his performances and compositions. His piece, Resonance, will be premiered at the Winter Spectacular at the Riviera Theatre this month by Sean Connors and Robert Dillon, members of the Grammy award-winning ensemble Third Coast Percussion. Read about Bennett’s musical journey and how his composition came to be.

Discovering Percussion
A young Bennett (far right) stands with other TPMS percussion students and Third Coast Percussion at a improv workshop at Hibbard Elementary in 2015.

When Bennett started at The People’s Music School in second grade, he almost became a violinist, following in his brother, Ruben’s, footsteps. “I really admired what my brother was doing at the time. He played violin, so I really wanted to play.” But he remembers being advised to choose a different instrument than his brother. “The funny thing is they said percussion is probably the easiest one to play. They lied – it’s not the easiest to play! There’s a lot of technique, really hard stuff.” 

Bennett makes it look easy, though. At TPMS, he plays percussion in the SLAM Wind Ensemble and often joins in with other ensembles to provide rhythm sections. As a student at ChiArts, he’s a member of the percussion ensemble, percussion technique class, orchestra, and wind ensemble. And on top of all that, he has composed a piece whose world premier will be performed by Grammy Award-winning musicians. 

Composing Resonance

When Bennett began composing his work as part of TPMS’s spring composition project, he did not envision it taking shape the way it did. “I didn’t really have any ambitions for the piece. I wrote it for the assignment and put together what felt good.” But what started as a theory class assignment evolved into a duet for marimba, with a melodic conversation happening between the higher and lower registers. “I was going to play the piece with four mallets playing the bass part on the lower side and my melody on the higher side. It became a duet because it was impossible to play with just one person.” 

The musical arc of Resonance starts in the higher register – “It sounds all happy,” Bennett says. “The name ‘Resonance’ doesn’t really apply as much in the beginning.” The title becomes more apparent as the piece progresses and the bass line and melody begin to intertwine. “The bass line joins the melody, and the notes match each other.” That’s when it really resonates, says Bennett. 

Working with Third Coast Percussion
Bennett at a percussion masterclass with Sean Connors of Third Coast Percussion

As for workshopping and playing with musicians from Third Coast Percussion? “It’s really cool. They said they really liked the piece,” Bennett says with a smile on his face. “The first time they saw my piece and played it, they sight-read through really fast. It’s really impressive. It sounded like they had been practicing for a month already.” Being able to receive feedback and tips on technique proved to be immensely valuable, as the ensemble has helped him transform the work from its earlier versions. “I can say I’ve made it a lot better since then,” says Bennett.

A Musical Future Ahead
Bennett practices etudes for marimba at The People’s Music School

Bennett sees music not just as a creative outlet, but as a future career. “I’m a senior in high school, so I’m looking into colleges right now. I’m looking to go into music production, so maybe I can put in some music composition in there. Maybe audio engineering, too, that kind of thing.” 

He recognizes he didn’t get to where he is today without hard work and dedicated practice. “I did not practice my instrument enough when I was little. If you’re learning to play an instrument, actually really practice.” 

Being a Role Model

Reflecting on his growth as a musician, Bennett notes the importance of having peers to model oneself after. He remembers looking up to one especially talented percussionist at his school: “By comparing myself to that guy, I started practicing on my own time and trying to get up to his level. You know, you want to be the person that’s looked up to.” 

Now, Bennett is that person. His teachers at his high school and at TPMS see him as a leader who can provide guidance for other music students. “My teacher designated me as the go-to person for teaching others, mentoring, and being a representative for incoming freshmen.” 

Congratulations, Bennett – we know the world premier of Resonance is just one step on the path to your bright, musical future ahead! 

To hear Resonance, attend The People’s Music School’s Winter Spectacular on Sunday, December 17 at 10am at the Riviera Theatre. Details: peoplesmusicschool.org/winterspectacular. 

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