When Benson Wang and his tuba arrived at Loomis Chaffee 2019, David Winer thought he had someone special. Benson, a freshman at the time, had technique and range. He had ability and determination.
And David had well-trained ears and eyes. The Loomis Chaffee Wind Ensemble director, a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, is an experienced tuba player in his fifth decade of teaching the instrument.
David found out something else about Benson.
“He quickly demonstrated the most important ingredient — an amazing work ethic,” David said.
It did not take long for Benson to make a name for himself. He went from the last chair in the Connecticut Northern Region Band in the fall of 2019 to the first chair in the Connecticut All-State Band in February 2020. He got there by hard work, David said.
“Since then, he has been the top scorer in both the region and Connecticut All-State for three years straight,” David said.
With all that Benson had accomplished, David wanted to feature him with a special solo this spring in Benson’s final concert with the ensemble before he graduates. The problem is that there are few quality pieces for a band or orchestra that have both a tuba solo and an accompaniment that is playable by a high school ensemble.
Enter Terry Jones, a musician and composer.
“He is a good friend that I play with regularly in ensembles and have played some of his compositions,” David said. “Chatting one day, as he is an emerging composer trying to establish himself — and knowing he has great musical ideas — I described my challenge, and he agreed to write something specific to the needs of our group.”
Mr. Jones, the assistant music director at Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church in Hartford, said he was grateful for the opportunity.
“Benson is wonderful, one of the best students I have seen on tuba at his age,” Mr. Jones said as he worked with the Wind Ensemble last week. “Definitely a talent.”
The Spring Orchestra/Wind Ensemble Concert is Sunday, May 21, at 4 p.m. in the Hubbard Performance Hall.
Benson said he is honored to play the solo. “Most tuba players in their entire career don’t get this kind of opportunity,” he said. “Without the support of Mr. Winer, I would not have gotten this far or had this opportunity. He has been my mentor not only in music but in life, just a very solid support figure.”
In addition to playing with the Wind Ensemble, Benson takes private lessons from David. Pupil and teacher connected from the first time Benson visited campus as a prospective student. Benson’s emerging talent and David’s deep knowledge of the instrument were a match that turned into something memorable.
Benson’s sound has been honed over many hours of practice, ranging from summer camps to a daily devotion to the instrument. It might seem like work to others, Benson said, but for him it has been fun.
“We have featured outstanding seniors as soloists before without commissioning our own ‘world premiere,’ but Benson is really special, and a high school tuba player of this caliber is very rare — definitely in the top few in my 46 years of teaching tuba,” David said.
The concert also features the Loomis Chaffee Orchestra playing a piece called “Fear,” by Iraqi composer Ameen Mokdad, who visited campus earlier this month to work with the orchestra. “Fear” is one of 19 original pieces in Mr. Mokdad’s collection The Curve, which he composed while in hiding from the Islamic State for about two years starting in 2014.