Monday, September 24, 2007

RIP Bruce Benward

The Society for Music Theory just announced that Bruce Benward, the most wealthy music theorist in the United States, died a week ago. I have a great memory of him visiting Eastman while I was a grad student. He and Bob Gauldin started reminiscing about being students at Eastman back in the 40's, and it was amazing how much was the same as my own experiences, even if the names and theories changed. I'll post the eulogy that they sent out:
Dr. Bruce Benward, an eminent pedagogue and influential scholar, died on September 15, 2007 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He served as professor of music theory for 30 years at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Music. Prior to that, he spent two decades as professor of music and chair of the Music Department at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Benward also served as Florida State University’s distinguished visiting professor of music theory in 1992. He earned his master’s degree from Indiana University in 1943 and his Ph.D. from the Eastman School of Music in 1950.

During his career, Benward published several landmark music theory textbooks, including Music in Theory and Practice, Ear Training: A Technique for Listening, Sightsinging Complete, and Practical Beginning Theory: A Fundamentals Worktext. He is credited for being on the forefront of computer-assisted music instruction, having authored or coauthored several pieces of computer software. Throughout his career, he made presentations at conferences and workshops across the country for various professional organizations. In 1995, he founded the Macro Analysis Creative Research Organization, an organization dedicated to music theory pedagogy.

Among his many honors, Benward received the Trochos research grant from the IBM Corporation in 1985 for the development of instructional programs for microcomputers. He was awarded the Joe Wyatt Challenge Award in 1991 and was listed among 100 other technological leaders. At the University of Wisconsin–Madison, he was voted as one of the “Top 100 Educators.”

As an examiner for the National Association of Schools of Music, Benward visited more than 50 accredited universities in the United States. He served on the editorial boards for Computers in Music Research, College Music Symposium, Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, and Schirmer Books. Benward also served as president of the National Association of Music Schools of State Universities.


Daniel Wolf said...

Okay, Scott, you've piqued my curiosity -- did Benward become the wealthiest music theorist because of his bestselling music theory work, or did he have a nice side gig, come from old money, marry a wealthy woman and/or have a sugar daddy, or maybe win the lottery?

If it's the bestselling music theory text, I am so going to get mine -- Topic of Counterpoint -- published ASAP.

Scott Spiegelberg said...

Daniel, it is indeed from his textbooks. Music in Theory and Practice is still the most adopted theory text book in the United States, and the sightsinging book (co-authored with Maureen Carr) is widely used.

I love your book title!

Stefan Kac said...

Does anyone know anything more about the "National Association of Music Schools of State Universities"? I've never heard of that organization, and I can't find much by googling it either.

Scott Spiegelberg said...

I didn't even see that part at the very bottom. It could be a defunct organization. I certainly don't remember it being mentioned at U. of Minnesota, which does have a School of Music, or the various state universities I taught at which had departments of music.

Anonymous said...

Good Afternoon to you Scott, and to all those individuals who have posted their comments & questions in reply to your notice of Dr. Bruce Benward's recent passing. My name is Whitney Smith, and I am one of Bruce's four granddaughters (he has seven grandchildren in total).
I must candidly admit, it is very nice to see the word being spread around the music theory community about my grandfather's passing, as it is certainly no question the enormous impact he had on the world you all live & surround yourselves with on a daily basis (I can assure you- he had the same enormous impact on his family). What I must also admit is how incredibly shocking it is to see scholars like yourself discussing the monetary situations of your so-called “mentors,” without any substantial or proven reference, at that. Albeit shocking, I’m sure none of you intentionally meant to cause harm with your uneducated references to Dr. Bruce Benward’s wealth, that is most certainly what you have done. I do want you to know his three daughters have read your remarks and find no humor in the verbiage, what so ever.
In my personal opinion, Dr. Bruce Benward will forever be remembered & revered in the musical scholar community for the groundbreaking teaching methods he introduced over the course of his life, as well as his enthusiasm & passion for educating others, but certainly not for the amount of money he accumulated during these numerous years of service & dedication he committed to the aforementioned cause. The original tone & tribute of this entire blog have been tarnished by the mere mention of money. I can safely say Dr. Bruce Benward would full heartedly agree with me.

Scott Spiegelberg said...

Dear Ms. Smith,

I'm sorry that you and your family were offended by my post. My intent was not to degrade your grandfather's memory. I used that tiny offhand descriptor because that is how we referred to your grandfather when I was in grad school (both students and faculty). The little moniker expressed both our envy and amazement at his talents in innovating theory pedagogy, first with his text books and then with CAI programs. And I don't think that is anything to be ashamed about. Plus, there is a joke involved, that music theorists are definitely not known for being wealthy. But I understand if you and your family are not in the mood for humor on this subject. I offer my prayers and apologies to you and your family.

Daron Hagen said...

I was in Dr. Benward's theory class as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin in 1980-1981 and shall forever be grateful for his inspiring teaching, his jovial authority, and his patience with an ambitious young composer who needed musical tools with which to work. He'll be missed!

Felipe Izcaray said...

Hello, my name is Dr. Felipe Izcaray, orchestral conductor from Venezuela, with experience in several countries. I hold three degrees from the UW-Madison School of Music, BM, MM and DMA. I did my undergraduate and MM work under Benward's tenure as Chairman of the School of Music, and head of the Music Theory Department. He was a superb teacher, a thorough pedagogue and an accomplished musician.
But I want to emphasize Dr. Benward's human qualities, those that distinguished him as a very special human being. As a very frightened and disoriented freshman student with very basic dominion of the English language in 1970, I messed up my registration and did not sign up for freshman theory. It was not until the third or fourth week that I realized my mistake, and went to Bruce for assistance (and I mean, almost crying). Not only he took me in his course, but he also helped me personally with the much needed remedial work, dedicating long hours to patiently teaching me what I had missed, and making sure I was not totally lost in the current work.
One day he approached me in the hallway after class, and said: "Felipe, my wife and I would love to have you and your wife as our guests for Thanksgiving". Not only he extend that precious invitation, but he also drove us to and from his quite distant home from our off campus little apartment. I contibued to be a guest for thanksgiving every year I spent in Madison. From then on I am proud to say Bruce became a dear friend. There was a difference of age and culture background, but that was no deterrent for our growing relationship.

Several years later, when I was enrolled as a MM student in Choral Conducting under Robert Fountain (also an Eastman alumni), RF spent a leave of absence year at Yale, and a substitute professor was brought to teach us in the program. The sub did not meet our expectations, and we the students went to talk to Dr. benward and explained the situation. He immediately took action, appointed a committee to study the case, and ultimately decided in our favor, and switched teachers for second semester. He really listened.

Before I returned to my native country in 1974, I wanted to buy a car to take home with me. The OPEC embargo caused gas shortage and prices for large vehicles went down dramatically, and I wanted to take advantage of the situation. I needed a bank loan to purchase the car. I went to Bruce for advice, and he said, "What's the problem, I will co sign your loan". I told him that I was going back to Venezuela and that several of my payments would have to be done from here. Then he said something I will never forget: "You know, You are like a member of our family, and I would not deny a loan to a son of mine. You will do allright".

I did go back to Madison for a DMA in Orchestral Conducting in the 1990s, and had again the pleasure to take an advanced theory course with Dr. Benward as my teacher. The same thoroughness, the same strict evaluation, and a new interest in analyzing works using the circle of fifths.

I am sorry to have found out so late of his passing. If this is read by members of his family, please know that in Venezuela you have a friend of this extraordinary man, excellent teacher and superb musician. His warmth, generosity and his friendship will always be in my family's memory as one of our most cherished life experiences.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

I was spending sometime this evening reviewing and listening to several of my published arrangements at Pepper’s Music on line, and at age 57 I started thinking about who taught and influenced me. Bruce Benward came to mind immediately, as he was the most important teachers in my life. So, I looked him up and found out that he had passed.

Now in my 33rd year of teaching, and having done a tremendous amount of writing and arranging, (over 50 published arrangements and compositions) I know I have to be thankful to him. Dr. Benward gave me the encouragement, tools and discipline I needed at that time (1974-1976) to develop my skills. He was wonderful and I will always appreciate the time he spent with me. He made a difference in my life.

Wishing his family the best,

Dave Henning
UW 1979 BM
TCU 1982 MM

Anonymous said...

A number of years have passed since Dr. Benward's death. Tonight, I am reading that serious budget-cutting is afoot at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and I am thinking of him. I did not attend that university, nor was I his student. I met him at a workshop for music faculty on creating computer-assisted instruction for music theory and ear-training, in the early 1980's. I was struck by his integrity and genuine caring for students. I don't know how much of his spirit is still at UW-Madison, but I hope, in the upcoming changes there, that he is not forgotten altogether.