Elizabeth Bennett ‘04 was one of 10 finalists for the 2020 Music Educator Grammy Award. The award recognizes teachers who have made a significant and lasting contribution to music education and who demonstrate a commitment to maintaining music education in schools. As a testament to her ongoing positive impact on current and former students, Bennett is currently a semifinalist for the 2021 Music Educator Grammy Award.
Bennett serves as director of orchestras at Buffalo Grove High School in Illinois, where she recently organized a "Summer Break Bach" giveaway to provide needy families with boxes containing nonperishable food items and a packet of music lessons created by her students.
She is also the recipient of a 2015 Northwestern University Distinguished Secondary Teacher Award, 2014 University of Chicago Educator of the Year Award, and 2008 Illinois Emerging Teacher Leader Award. She earned her bachelor’s degree in music education and bassoon performance from the Bienen School of Music.
What made you choose the Bienen School of Music?
I attended NHSMI (National High School Music Institute) at Northwestern University twice while I was in high school. It was a five-week, music-intensive program that was absolutely wonderful. It changed my life and made me fall in love with Northwestern. It was at NHSMI that I met my bassoon professor, the late Robert Barris, and I knew I wanted to study with him. From there, I set my goal to be accepted as a student in the Bienen School of Music and the rest is history!
Which professors influenced you most during your time at the Bienen School of Music?
Robert Barris (bassoon), Robert Hasty (conducting), Maud Hickey (music education), Jesse Rosenberg (musicology), and Victor Yampolsky (conducting). Each of these fine people made a lasting impact on my education and career. I still remember their lessons to this day, and often use their examples with my own students. Each of these instructors has such passion for what they do, and it is infectious to their lucky students; it certainly was to me. I'm grateful for them all!
Tell us about a particular experience that impacted you during your time at the Bienen School of Music.
During one quarter in NUSO (Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra) I had the great pleasure to rehearse and perform Richard Strauss' An Alpine Symphony under the direction of Maestro Victor Yampolsky. I got goosebumps during every single rehearsal. Every single one. That had never happened before, nor has it happened since. Maestro's passion for the music was unmatched and he brought it to every note and moment of that piece. I remember being in awe of Maestro's passion during every minute of rehearsal. Not once did a rehearsal become mundane, not once did he expect anything but our best, and every single minute he brought his own best. I believe Maestro's passion brought us to a higher level, and it certainly made an impact on me. I still get goosebumps thinking about the experience and anytime I hear the work.
What lesson did you learn at Bienen that has continued to resonate with you in your career?
Jesse Rosenberg would announce during his Music History class that there was no attendance policy. To summarize, if you wanted to be there and learn then you would, and if you didn't then it would only harm your own learning experience. His class was always packed and highly sought after. Why? Because he was (is) such a tremendous instructor. Sure, students could skip class, but they didn't because who would want to miss anything he had to teach? He was so passionate and such an expert on what he taught that we all hung on every word.
That is who I strive to be as an educator. I am passionate about what I teach, and I make sure that I want to be there each day. If I feel that way, then hopefully my students will as well. You can ask any of them; I am a proud "nerd" about music theory and orchestral playing, and I hope they become one as well!
Top three of your Desert Island Discs (any genre)
Mahler Symphonies - Sir Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (let's pretend all of the symphonies will fit on one disc!)
Sting's Symphonicities album (guilty pleasure album for sure!)
Björk's Post album (if you're on a desert island this album could help get out a lot of emotions!)