Dr. Jeremy Benson, Associate Professor of Flute Studies and Conductor of the Civic Symphony, was just awarded 1st prize in the Semifinalist round of the 2021 Music International Grand Prix Competition. The Final Round should take place during May 2021, live at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Benson found the motivation to enter the competition following the initial lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I have had a lot of practice time at home during the pandemic. I have practiced music that I have not played in years and music that I have always wanted to learn. It was also a great way to demonstrate to students that I apply the lessons we learn together in my own musical life,” explained Benson. “More than just listening to me, I want students to trust me. Also, if I advanced in the competition, I hoped to revisit New York City.”
About his semifinalist status, Benson stated, “I am very excited to be a representative of JSU and the Music Department. I work hard in my own practicing, and I hope to encourage students to set lofty goals and to exceed their expectations.”
It will not be Benson’s first time at Carnegie Hall if the Final Round does take place in-person. In 2011, he won 1st prize in the Alexander and Buono International Flute Competition. “Ten years ago, I performed in a different international flute competition at Carnegie Hall, and it would be a great experience to play there again.”
According to Benson, much of his success is due to his upbringing and earlier stages of life. He explained that his parents were involved in music-based activities for enjoyment, so he often heard music at home while growing up. Additionally, he had encouraging musical educators. “In high school, I had great music teachers and motivated friends who inspired me to practice. I was fortunate to attend great universities and music conservatories to study with awesome professors.” Even now, Benson is constantly setting new goals for himself and assessing his past achievements. “I try to live a life of gratitude and service. I have truly been blessed.”
Benson has been teaching at JSU for the last decade. Originally from Ringgold, GA, his undergraduate degree is from JSU, his master’s from Florida State University, and his doctorate from Rutgers University.
Currently, Benson teaches individual student lessons while also conducting the JSU Civic Symphony. He loves them both equally because of what makes them different: the one-on-one and the full group instruction. His favorite thing about the JSU Music Department is the students’ and faculty’s mutual desire to make and share music, explaining, “it inspires me to want to do my best every day.” This passion–in addition to a mindset that prevents him from seeing his work as “just a job”–is likely what led to Benson being named JSU Faculty Lecturer for the 2018-2019 school year. “I love working with students and my colleagues. I have a unique opportunity to teach students individually and then apply the lessons that we learn into a musical performance or into orchestra rehearsals. I love to collaborate on musical projects with students and colleagues.”
Three publications are currently in the works for Benson: a solo album (underneath the Cantilena Records label) that will feature Christopher-Joel Carter and fellow JSU faculty member Dr. Rachel Park (who also accompanied Benson for his performance that garnered the first place semi-finalist honor this year), music publications edited with his “personal annotations and musical ideas for pedagogical purposes,” and an etude book for students that will encompass studies in major and minor keys.
In his spare time, Benson likes to travel, camp, and play bridge with his friends in the community. He also works as the Director of Music at the Heflin First United Methodist Church, where he works with attendants to bring music to the worship services.
“Go explore” is the advice that Benson would give everyone. “I have a sign [saying “Go explore”] on the inside of my office door that is seen every time anyone leaves my office… Daily, we are all given an opportunity to explore and learn something new. We all have so much potential to do great things if we take advantage of opportunities and explore.”
Benson has a website (www.jeremybensonmusic.com) and videos on YouTube where several of his performances can be seen.
A direct link to one of Dr. Benson’s performances for the 2021 Music international Grand Prix Competition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGSOKx4I2hQ&list=RDVGSOKx4I2hQ&start_radio=1