Benjamin Boone

Dr. Benjamin Boone

Educator, Scholar, Composer and Saxophonist Benjamin Boone, originally from the small textile town of Statesville, N.C., is a Professor at California State University Fresno where he has taught in the areas of music theory and composition since 2000. In 2011 Boone received the “President’s Award of Excellence” by the University Advisory Board for his “integrity, leadership, and commitment to the university.” Prior to this honor, he was awarded the “Provost Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities”, the “University Faculty Spirit of Service Award” for his design of a Service-Learning partnership with a juvenile court facility in Fresno, which has been hailed nationally as a model of Service-Learning Best Practices, and the “Best in Show Award” for his commitment to academic excellence. In Fall 2010 he was appointed Faculty Service-Learning Scholar for the Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning, facilitating the implementation of Service-Learning projects. Boone also instigated and coordinated the CSU Summer Arts Festival full-immersion two week courses “Composer-Performer Collaboration” with the Kronos Quartet, Guy Livingston, Kurt Rohde, et; al., and “Jazz and Beyond” with Poncho Sanchez, Theo Bleckmann, Ben Monder, et. al.  Prior to his appointment at Fresno State, Boone taught at the University of Tennessee, where he received the “Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.”

A Fulbright Senior Specialist Fellow to the Univeritatea de Stat “Alecu Russo” (Republic of Moldova), Boone’s research on speech from a musical perspective has been noted in Oxford’s The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, and in Judith Martinovich’s Creative Expressive Activities and Asperger’s Syndrome (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London,2005). He has also edited manuscripts of Music Theory texts for Schirmer/Wadsworth, McGraw Hill and Prentice Hall.

Boone’s compositions have been performed in over twenty-six countries -- from Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center to China, Japan, Australia, Africa, South American and Eastern/Western Europe -- and appear on over twenty CDs of performers/groups such as the Electronic Music Foundation, Vox Novus, the National Flute Choir and the New Century Saxophone Quartet. His works have also been featured in Film (Guy Livingston’s One Minute More), and have been the subject of stories aired on National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition,” National Public Radio’s “Here and Now,” Bavarian National Radio, California Public Radio’s “The California Report” and French television. In 2012, a consortium of saxophonists hosted a two day festival solely devoted to Boone’s compositions. His works have garnered over eighteen national/international honors and awards from the International Society of Contemporary Music, the Olympia International Prize for Composition, Billboard Magazine, the National Association of Composers,  New Music USA, The American Music Center, the American Composer’s Forum, ASCAP, Meet the Composer/Southeastern Arts Federation, the National Flute Association, the Southeastern Composers' League, the Delius Foundation, and Boston University, among others. In 2016 will be “Composer Residence” at the Verdi String Quartet’s Vielsaitag Festival in Germany.

As a saxophonist specializing in the performance of new music, Boone has performed extensively throughout the US and Europe in a number of settings, including performing world premieres of several works. His debut jazz CD, “The Benjamin Boone Quartet: Live” broke into the national airplay charts and remained in the top 100 for three weeks. Saxophone Journal highlighted Boone’s playing in the article “A Lesson With Benjamin Boone” (Vol. 30, No. 2). He has recorded extensively for the renowned Bayerischer Rundfunk Studio Franken with German violinist/composer Stefan Poetzsch, including the Capstone Records CD, “Eastbound-Westbound” and the one-hour music special “Delays.” His “Evolution Quartet” recently collaborated with U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Levine on a CD   tentatively titled, “The Poetry of Jazz – The Jazz of Poetry.” Jazz icons such as Chris Potter, Greg Osby, Tom Harrell, among others, make special guest appearance.

Boone has received fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, Fundación Valparaíso (Spain), the Aspen Music Festival Center for Compositional Studies/Advanced Master Class Program, "Words and Music" (international composition symposium sponsored by Indiana University and the United States Information Service), A*deVantgarde Festival für Nueue Musik, Munich/Office of the American Consulate, the North Carolina Arts Council Composition Fellowship and the Tennessee Arts Commission Composition Fellowship.

Recent works include the 2015 orchestral work Waterless Music, which features the recorded poetry and narration of Philip Levine, as well as two amplified 44-quart containers of water. In 2012 Boone completed Fresno Sin Frenos: Mariachi Madness, for orchestra, mariachi band and audience participation, which included a curriculum for elementary students. Bothe of these works were performed in Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Other recent works include the setting of over 20 Philip Levine poems; Con Man: The Musical – a multi-media adaptation of Herman Melville’s last work, premiered by acclaimed actor John Fleck (Weeds, etc.) at USC in Los Angeles, in a production directed by Obie – nominated director David Schweizer; Ascencion, a two-hour dramatic cantata for mezzo soprano, piano, choir, Mission bells and Native American instruments (librettist Helene Joseph-Weil); Place Setting DJ, for solo piano, commissioned by Guy Livingston (Paris) for his movie and world tour, One Minute More;Joropo Jam, for guitar and saxophone, commissioned by Alan Durst for his Centaur Records CD, Tangos y Serenades, premiered in Beijing, China and performed at the Kennedy Center; and My Fellow Citizens, and several other works, performed in numerous locations as part of the Vox Novus 60 x60. Boone's compositions are published by Latham Music, Alry Publications, Sentinel Dome, Eighth Note Publications (Canada), GPG and Vester Music.

Boone has presented guest lectures and master classes at the Academy of Music (Moldova), the University of Magdeburg (Germany), the University of Erlangen (Germany), Charles University (the Czech Republic), the University of Cape Town (South Africa), and the Buenos Aires Festival of Saxophone, among many others in the US. He has been in residence at festivals and colonies such as Fundación Valparaíso (Spain), May in Miami, June in Buffalo, the Bowling Green New Music Festival, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and the Aspen Music Festival and he has given presentations at conferences such as the Society of Composers (national and regional), National Flute Association, North American Saxophone Alliance (national and regional), National Association of Composers, World Saxophone Congress, Society for New Music, Conference on American Culture, Music Education Association, and International Trumpet Guild.

In addition, Boone has assisted a biologist with the infrasonic recording of rhinoceros vocalizations in Zimbabwe and Zambia; served as a music business manager in New York City; researched the effect of University interaction with students at a Court School; and designed Service-Learning and Civic Engagement best-practices.

Boone primarily studied with Bernard Rands, Gordon Goodwin, Charles Fussell, John A. Lennon and Jerry Coker at the University of Tennessee (BM), Boston University (MM) and the University of South Carolina (DMA).

For a catalogue of works, sound files, research summaries, press, discography, and educational resources, visit

WATERLESS MUSIC: Featuring the Poetry and Narration of Philip Levine - By BENJAMIN BOONE

Water is everything. We are water, and we depend on water to sustain all life. When I was commissioned to write a piece about water I first thought of its essence and its physical qualities: its various forms and peculiarities like its expansion when it freezes, or the way it evaporates, forms clouds, falls to earth and flows over surfaces. But in California, in 2015, one cannot consider water without considering the lack of water we are experiencing. Fields that used to be green and full of life are now brown. Small communities have watched their only wells dry up. Lakes are at their lowest levels in decades. Millions of trees in the Sierra are dying. Air quality is deteriorating.

As I contemplated how to put all of this into music, the Fresno area community experienced the loss of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine. It was also a personal loss. I, along with several other musicians, had been collaborating with Philip on a CD project – a modern integration of music and poetry tentatively called “The Word of Jazz.” So after his death, in a remembrance of him and to the work we had done together, I listened to the tracks we had recorded. Somewhat unexpectedly, I noted that Philip frequently used water, rain, and dryness as metaphors. I began writing down water, storm and agricultural references and categories began to emerge. I excerpted these phrases and created a montage - a narrative that goes from the beginning of earth’s existence, to water, to rain, to dark clouds, to a violent storm, to environmental collapse, to fallow land and infertility and finally to a complete lack of water. Once I finished the narration track, I composed the orchestral music around it.

The beginning of the world is symbolized by humming and the “playing” of goblets of water tuned to D and A. Then water, in two amplified 44-quart bowls, is played as an instrument – first by players dripping water from their cupped palms and later by holding up clear bowls with multiple small holes to simulate rain coming from clouds . The piano, woodwinds and strings play cascading figures, like water flowing down rocks on the sides of a waterfall at different speeds.  There is a thunderstorm where the players beat the water with cups and dip gongs, followed by the end of the rain; harmonies become more dissonant, the rhythms less stable as the poetry addresses environmental degradation and polluted water. Towards the end, I use the higher ranges of the instruments playing short, dissonant notes as Levine speaks of “abandoned farmhouses... nothing could grow from this ground” and other drought-related themes. The last lines of the narration come from By the Waters of the Llobregat, a poem about genocide: “By the waters of the world, no one sits down and weeps.” The work ends with the same visual as at the beginning, but now instead of rain, only sporadic drips fall from the “clouds.”