Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Glenn Bennett, the thriving music program at Mesa Community College’s Red Mountain Campus brings the joy of music to students and local residents in the East Mesa area.
Bennett, who created the program from the ground up, said he is pleased with the growth the program has experienced in the past six years. Hired by MCC in 1991, Bennett was working at the Southern and Dobson Campus when he was asked by Jo Wilson, dean of the Red Mountain campus at the time, to transfer his talents to the new campus.
“I liked what I saw and thought long and hard about it,” Bennett said. “It was an important decision to make. I felt a very strong pull to come to the Red Mountain Campus.”
It turned out to be the right decision, resulting in a program which now includes several choral performance groups including the Sun Valley Chorale, Cantilena and the Red Mountain Chorale. The program has also seen significant growth in classes in music humanities, music theory and aural perception.
“Our music program has continually thought outside of the box and the result is that it seems to be working,” Bennett said. “We continually reinvent ourselves.”
Bennett’s deep passion for music is the driving force behind the program.
He advises his students to listen to quality music and try to emulate great performances.
“One of the things I tell my students before every concert is this: ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, there may be somebody who walks through that door, who needs to have some kind of a touch. They need to know that life is worth living, they need to know that life has beauty in it and they need to know that there is somebody who really cares. They’re going to get that from the music that you sing. Let’s make it great.’
“I know that sounds very dramatic, but it’s true,” Bennett said. “Music is a universal expression of an inward experience.”
Bennett’s belief in the power of music leads to a desire to share cultural experiences with the surrounding community. He regularly visits Skyline and Red Mountain High Schools to work with the choirs and encourage students. The Red Mountain Choir performances are always open to the public and often the choirs collaborate with other music groups to put on performances off campus in venues such as the Mesa Arts Center and the Dodge Theatre.
The Red Mountain choirs recently put on a “Living Christmas Tree” performance on campus, a first for a community college program. Three successful performances attracted more than 350 enthusiastic attendees and raised money for music scholarships.
Bennett said this community outreach is an important factor to providing residents with music education.
“A lot of times there is an intimidation factor when you look at a school the size of ASU,” Bennett said. “This leaves community colleges as the only other places people can go for cultural experience. It all comes down to the bottom line, which is money. The value of cultural experience doesn’t have a price tag on it.”
Degrees and Awards
Bennett earned a bachelor’s degree from Stetson University and did his master’s and doctoral work at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He has been a guest conductor for the Mesa Symphony numerous times and has held various choral workshops throughout Arizona. At MCC, Bennett has been nominated many times as Teacher of the Year.
In addition to his music credentials, Bennett is certified as a master scuba diving instructor. He teaches a scuba diving class each semester at MCC.
In the future, Bennett would like to see the MCC music program continue to grow and evolve. A special focus for the Red Mountain Campus is planned, with an emphasis toward a commercial music certificate. The certificate would include classes in songwriting, music business and performance. There are also plans for a church music program to offer community members training in how to lead a choir, lead congregational singing and other skills.
On the personal side, Bennett would like to have more time to perhaps dive the Great Barrier Reef, take his choral groups to Europe to sing in the great cathedrals or write a book on American Music.
“I have a great passion to help people understand the musical heritage we have as Americans,” Bennett said.