Patrick Benson, B '08
The following is an excerpt from our 2011 Annual Report. Click here to download the entire report and read more.
... Benson was first led to his passion for music by his parents. Although neither of them was musically inclined, their love of music filled Benson’s childhood with a repertoire that included the Beatles, folk music, classical music, jazz, and a daily dose of Sousa. “My dad played Sousa marches mornings when I was in middle school and high school to wake me up,” Benson recalls. He first tried his young hand at the viola in kindergarten, but four years later he settled on percussion -- for no particular reason -- and began his musical journey.
That journey included concert band and orchestral percussion lessons, drum set lessons in 6th grade, a community band at Notre Dame High School in Niles, IL, and numerous opportunities to play in any ensemble or group that was available. Benson’s parents encouraged and supported their only child in all of his endeavors: sports, art, music, and Boy Scouts. “They were always there for me…like bumper rails in bowling…there but letting me take my own path,” Benson says. They instilled in him the importance of taking part 100% in every endeavor and pursuit, and Benson is convinced that ethic has served him well. That includes helping him earn his Eagle Scout distinction as a freshman in high school and navigate the rigors of VanderCook’s comprehensive curriculum.
By the time Benson enrolled at Notre Dame High School, the same school where he participated in community band, he was already considering a career in music. Private lessons, summers at Birch Creek Music Camp, playing in bands and groups, finding good friends along the way – all of it had Benson believing a career in music was in his future. It was his third band director, a VanderCook alumnus, who encouraged Benson to consider music education during his senior year at Notre Dame.
Mike Wallace (B’99) recognized Benson’s passion for playing and performing. Benson remembers Wallace asking him to think about how he wanted the rest of his life to look. Benson soon realized a life of performance would consist of playing, touring, teaching private lessons, and ultimately far less stability than he desired. He took Wallace’s advice and added VanderCook to the list of Illinois colleges and universities he was checking out. After attending Senior Day, applying and auditioning, Benson was accepted. He also met professor Kevin Lepper, and took private percussion lessons the summer before he arrived on campus.
Benson soon learned the college catalog only told part of the story. Days beginning at 7 a.m. and going well into the evening made for a tough schedule. The demands were intense but Benson used a systematic approach, building skills at each level. “I took advantage of everything at VanderCook…every ensemble, any opportunity to play outside of the classroom, being in the fraternity, taking work study positions, bonding closely with so many classmates. I had thousands of things going on: classes, homework, practicing, friends, relationships, family. I had all these things to do...they just had to get done.”
By spring 2008, Benson’s self-described marathon -- passing the Basic Skills Test, completing techniques and methods classes, passing the Music Content and Assessment of Professional Teaching tests, fulfilling general education requirements, performing two recitals, and student teaching – was over at last. He crossed the finish line with all of the practical and professional skills he needed to begin his teaching career. Benson says he is convinced “VanderCook, just by its schedule and everything it offers, unconsciously prepares you for the everyday life of being a teacher.”
Benson began teaching at Hubbard in the fall of 2008. Since that time, he and his colleague, VanderCook alumnus David Stahlberg (M’08), have seen the band program grow exponentially. Benson has found that teaching is the perfect outlet for sharing his love of music and performance. Whether his students are taking in a Chicago Symphony concert and dinner in a Chicago restaurant, touring a college campus after a band trip to Indianapolis, or sitting in with the VanderCook Marathon Pep Band at the 33rd Street Rally Station, Benson thrives on helping his students enjoy bigger and better lives through a relationship with music. Benson also appreciates the concrete rewards he gets from his students as he watches music transform them. “My purpose is to expose them to as much outside of their daily life as possible. Seeing their enjoyment, hearing them reflect on their experience, and knowing the vehicle for all of that is just being in band is my reward.”