I was born in Midland, Texas on November 23, 1987. My parents are Darrell and Susan Benton, an English and Resource room teacher respectively. I've lived in Texas all my life, although I've had at various points ample opportunities to travel, including overseas.
My initial musical experience was starting on violin in fifth grade, an instrument I would go on to play through college and which I still consider myself very competent. It created in me a passion for classic orchestral music, particularly of the Romantic and British Neo-Romantic eras.
However once I hit San Jacinto Jr. High, I started playing percussion, and haven't looked back. It didn't usurp my love of violin and orchestra, it merely expanded my love and appreciate of music. I'm particularly fond of Japanese marimba works and the strong programmatic nature of the genre.
I'm definitely a product of the Midland High School Band Program back when Gary Doherty was the head director. Gary, along with Steven Dujohn, Daniel Loudenback, Dave Addicks, and others, were extremely influential in my early musical years, and helped form a strong foundational knowledge of music as I entered into college. They also set the standard for what a music educator should be, a standard which I hope to live up to throughout my career.
After graduating from MHS twelfth in my class of five hundred one, I went onto to study music at West Texas A&M University, earning my BA of Music with All Level Certification for teaching in December 2010. During my tenure as an undergraduate student at WT, I was a part of the String Ensemble, Symphony Orchestra, Percussion Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, and both the Concert and Symphonic Band (simultaneously on one occassion).
I studied percussion under Dr. Susan Martin-Tariq, who taught me not only percussion skills, but life skills through self discipline, and methodical study of music to truly understand the music. I also studied conducting under Dr. Mark Bartley, the Director of Orchestral Activities at WTAMU, and a fine conductor who helped me incorporate interdisciplinary studies into my conducting and musical experience.
Also while at WT as an undergraduate, I spent two fall semesters working as a percussion tech with the Canyon High School Band under Director Mike Sheffield. I was placed in charge of the marching band's front ensemble in both the 2008 and 2009 season, both arranging and teaching music to mostly non percussionists (double reeds, low reeds, etc). During this time I accumulated over 400 hours in classroom instruction before ever receiving my degree.
I completed my student teaching semester with the Canyon High School Band during the fall semester of 2010. Mike Sheffield, Lesley Zorn, Luiz Hernandez, and Steve Baird were all great influences upon me during that semester, and shared a wealth of knowledge and experience with me during that time. To them I will be ever grateful, as they helped make my first experience in the classroom wonderful.
I am currently studying at West Texas A&M University, working on my Masters of Arts in Music with an instrumental conducting emphasis.