Charles H. Benner, past MENC president and a college music educator who championed the cause of music education for all, died September 13 in Blue Ash, Ohio. He was 99 years old and a 72-year life member of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), formerly MENC.
Charles H. Benner was named a Lowell Mason Fellow in 2007.
NAfME President Scott C. Shuler, said, “Charles Benner’s presidency in our association was pivotal in making us the strong association for music education that we are today. He will be remembered for his work in overseeing the transition of our organization from an associated organization of the National Education Association to becoming a self-supporting organization and moving us to Reston,Virginia.
“Dr. Benner’s service to music education encompasses his positions held in the Ohio Music Education Association and MENC. After serving as national president from 1974-1976, he faithfully advised national presidents that followed after him. He was always there when both staff and elected officials called on him for advice. Charles Benner is held in high esteem now and will be for years to come. His legacy will live on,” Shuler said.
Nancy Ditmer, NAfME president-elect and fellow Ohioan, said, “It’s inspiring to know how much he still cared, even at age 99, and it was always clear to me that he read every word of the magazines and other publications that he received. He was indeed a remarkable man who left quite a mark on our wonderful profession!”
“We are being called upon to assume roles not as mere teacher/musician specialists but as multidimensional educators. Any or all of us may be called upon to assume these larger roles regardless of how cozily isolated and comfortable – or uncomfortable – we currently are,” Charles Benner wrote in the May, 1975, Music Educators Journal.
“Our knowledge, our insights into musical behavior, and our resources cannot go untended, un-revitalized, or un-stretched. Each of us must gain the capability to meet the challenges of music education in changing social and instructional settings,” he added.
Benner taught in public school in Butler County, Ohio, and was director of instrumental studies in the Wyoming, Ohio, public schools. He taught at Ohio State University, and was a professor and director of graduate studies in music education at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. He was professor emeritus at the University of Cincinnati at the time of his death.
He also served the profession in other ways. For the Ohio Music Education Association, he held numerous posts, including president from 1958−60. On the national level, he was president of the MENC North Central Division. He served on the MENC finance committee and was elected national president and served from 1974-76. During that time frame, he also served on the Board of Directors of the International Society for Music Education.
In recognition of a lifetime of achievements, Benner was named a Lowell Mason Fellow in 2007. He was designated by Mark Hensler, then president of the Ohio Music Education Association.
Benner served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II in the Pacific. On his return to civilian life, he decided music would be his life’s work.
His son Jonathan Benner said after his death: “It was Dad’s experiences in World War II that crystallized his sense of what his mission should be in life … to have a life of service to music and music education.”
Paul R. Lehman, who served as MENC president from 1984–86, said, “I have known and worked with Charles since he was president, and in my view, there is no president who has worked harder or longer for [MENC] than he. His efforts on behalf of music education began well before he became president, they intensified during his term in office, and they persisted until his passing.”
“No other president has remained more involved or contributed more following his term in office than Charles. He was a dear friend and a valued colleague to all who knew him,” Lehman added.
A memorial service will be held on October 8 at 10:30 am at St Paul’s Methodist Church in Madeira, Ohio. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to the music ministry of the St. Paul’s Community United Methodist Church, 8221 Miami Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45243.
—Roz Fehr, September 22, 2011. © National Association for Music Education (nafme.org)
Photo by Becky Spray