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Bennie Beach Sr.

Mr. Bennie Beach, Sr. was born in 1925. A native Mississippian, Bennie earned his undergraduate degree from Delta State University in 1948, after a tour of duty in the Army Air Force from 1943-46. His first teaching position was as director of bands in Cleveland, Mississippi, 1948-49. In the summer of 1950, Bennie became a member of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra trumpet section, a position he held until 1975. He began his graduate work at George Peabody College-Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee in 1951. While in graduate school he studied composition privately with Roy Harris for two years, and also studied with Nicolas Slonimsky, Philip Slates, John Boda, Howard Hanson, Ernst Krenek, and William Schuman at various other times of his life. He then received both a Master of Arts degree in Music and a Masters in Education degree in 1951 from Peabody College.

After serving as director of bands at Nashville’s Litton High School from 1952-53, he began his Hilltopper legacy when he became a member of the Music faculty at WKU in the fall of 1952. At WKU he taught theory, composition, brasses, and conducting, specializing in teaching the trumpet to students. Mr. Beach was extremely active in the WKU and Bowling Green community and developed the brass ensemble program, as well as served on numerous campus-wide committees. He is a member of the Cupola Society, the Cherry Society, and the President’s Circle. He played with the Bowling Green Western Kentucky Symphony Orchestra and served on the Symphony Board of Directors. To honor all of his accomplishments at WKU as a musician and leader, Bennie was inducted into the Western Kentucky University Music Wall of Fame in 2001.

Moreover, Mr. Beach made waves not only on a local scale, but also on a national one. He was vice-president and composition chairman of the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Teachers, as well as a member of MENC, ASCAP, National Federation of Musicians (since 1940), Phi Mu Alpha, and the Warren County Kiwanis Club. In 1965, he was awarded the designation of Kentucky Colonel. He also served as the official state bugler of Kentucky from 1964 into the 1980s. Delta State University named Bennie Beach their Alumnus of the Year in 1975, and he was inducted into the DSU Music Hall of Fame in 1976. Also in 1976, he was named Kentucky Composer of the Year by the Kentucky Music Teachers Association.

Mr. Beach also wrote extensively for vocal and instrumental mediums, coining the word Harmatonality to describe his unique tonal-atonal approach to writing music. As a result of his artistic success, he has been awarded numerous commissions. Notable among his many honors are two premier performances in Carnegie Hall.

After a long, prolific career, Mr. Beach retired from WKU in 1981. Mr. Beach has been characterized as a dedicated teacher, one who remained consistently devoted to the welfare and musical development of his students. To honor his career as a beloved teacher and musician and Mr. Beach’s family, the Bennie Beach, Sr. Strings Fund was established in November, 2008 by Mr. Doug Van Fleet. Through this fund, Mr. Beach’s legacy on the Hill continues.

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