Take a musical journey with Dave Bennett, Pittsburgh Pops |

Take a musical journey with Dave Bennett, Pittsburgh Pops

Mark Kanny
Dave Bennett

Some enthusiasms are merely passing fancies, even ones that are intense for a while. Others become life-long passions.

Dave Bennett was 10 when he realized what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He’d just started playing clarinet and before long was making music on guitar and piano as well. Now 33, he’s enjoying a very successful musical career, with his newest CD “Blood Moon” just released.

Bennett will headline the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops’ “From Swing to Rock,” with conductor Sarah Hicks, Feb. 16-18 at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall. He’ll also be accompanied by his combo ­— Jeff Kressler, piano, Shelly Berger, bass, and Peter Siers, drums.

In elementary school in Waterford, Mich., where he still resides, Bennett was very much into art.

“Like any other kid I was drawn to Superman and Batman, drawing those sort of things,” he recalls.

In fifth grade, when he became eligible to join the school band, his life changed.

“I was already aware of swing music because I liked to watch Abbott and Costello,” he says. “I remember my grandfather said to me that I’d have a lot of fun with the clarinet. No one really played music in my family, not my grandparents or parents although I had a couple of cousins who played guitar. So he and my grandmother went to a local pawn shop and bought me a clarinet. Shortly after they got me a tape of Benny Goodman purely because they thought I would get a kick out of what the clarinet could sound like. When I heard that, my whole life changed.”

Bennett never had much formal musical training. He did have an instructor who was a clarinetist who showed him the foundation of a good embouchure. And he was playing repertoire in band. But within a month of getting his clarinet Bennett realized he could play by ear. The first melody he “discovered” was “I’ll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time.”

In sixth grade Bennett dug out an old Elvis LP and began to teach himself guitar. The next year he got into was Jerry Lee Lewis and began work on piano.

Bennett’s Pops program is mainly chronological, mirroring his own path pursuing his musical enthusiasms. He’ll begin on clarinet in the swing era with “In the Mood,” “Four O’clock Jump” and “Jumpin’ at the Woodside.” After playing Artie Shaw’s “Stardust” and Glenn Miller’s “Serenade in Blue,” Bennet will move to piano and conclude the first half music by Jerry Lee Lewis, including “A Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Chantilly Lace.”

After intermission Bennett will take up the guitar for music by Elvis and Johnny Cash, as well as some songs Bennett has written from his new album. The concert will conclude with two rousing hits: “Sing, Sing, Sing” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Mark Kanny is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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