RIP Bruce Benward

September 27, 2007

“Benward,” as we used to call him, was an excellent music theory teacher. I had him for two year. We were always proofing his new text books, so we never got the real publications, just grey photocopies Benward had “Ism-itis” and could cull down every trend in the 20th century with an ISM. ModernISM, mimalISM, paralellISM (Wm Schuman), eclecticism, and so on. I got ismed out. None the less, he put together a very well integrated music theory curriculum, used my many. I just found out that Prof Benward was THE richest music theorist ever! So take THAT Herr Schenker.

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.


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