arrival in the Parlor Boys brought a much-needed aura of classical legitimacy
and discipline to the band, filled as it is with erratic self-taught geniuses.
Born in Germany in 1966, Benny began his formal music training on violin
and piano as a child, eventually graduating from the Richard Strauss Acadamy
of Music in Munich. By age 22, he was in the orchestra at the Schleswig-Holstein
Music Festival, memorably at one of the last performances conducted by
Leonard Bernstein. TV audiences caught a glimpse of Benny at the 1990
festival, when he took part in the series,
In 1992, a Rotary International ambassadorial scholarship brought him to America, and USC's prestigious Thornton School of Music, where he studied scoring for movies and TV. While at USC, he received another scholarship, from BMI. Some of his instructors included David Raksin, Elmer Bernstein, Christopher Young and Bruce Broughton.
Benny immediately turned this training to good use in Hollywood, scoring many films, such as Jon Voight's Tin Soldier, the Miramax documentary Rhyme and Reason; assisting Young in scoring Entrapment, Urban Legend and Playing by Heart.
He has also written numerous concert and chamber works, including Strings in Paradise for 4 violas, percussion and bass. It was premiered by the Los Angeles-based GAIA viola Ensemble and broadcast live by K-Mozart-FM. A world premiere recording of his duo, From My Notebook for violin and viola is now available on CD performed by the Luminarias Duo.
Benny's involvement with jazz and early American popular music arose in tandem with his classical training. Influenced at first by Fred Astaire movies and other musicals, Benny was especially moved by a friend's gift of an LP sampler featuring Louis Armstrong, Al Jolson and others. Benny's first, tentative, experiments in jazz improvisation were on piano, playing Broadway show tunes in a sort of Erroll Garner style. His teachers had thoroughly indoctrinated him in the belief that the violin was a "sacred' instrument, not to be sullied with jazz and other unpedigreed filth. However, after hearing Stephane Grappelli in concert a couple of times, and especially after hearing the indisputably legit Yehudi Menuhin playing swing and jazz, Benny decided that the violin wasn't as "sacred" as all that. To the potential horror of his music masters, he plunged his fiddle directly into (gasp!) Rock 'n' Roll. But swing, of the Reinhardt/Grapelli school, was what he wanted to play most.
1998 found Benny in Los Angeles, playing 1920s-style dance arrangements with Johnny Crawford's Orchestra. Parlor Boy Tom Marion discovered him there. Given the chance to jazz it up with our scrappy bunch, Benny has happily settled in, and never thinks about his old music teachers anymore.