As a well-traveled and experienced musician, violinist Nicole Benton has performed with an array of well-known artists, from the Florida Orchestra and Opera Tampa to Clay Aiken, Johnny Mathis and Mannheim Steamroller.
But her greatest joy as a musician is to discover the unknown.
“I love finding pieces that no one has discovered, and playing that for an audience,” said Benton, a violin instructor at the Patel Conservatory and a member of the USF President’s Trio.
Benton grew up in Ashland, KY where she began her music career in a small after-school orchestra. “I would attribute my love of violin to divine intervention. No one in my family played an instrument,” said Benton.
Not many kids fall in love with classical music, but it was a passion for Benton, who has a Master of Music Performance from Kent State University. She’s currently working on a second and third master’s degree in both musicology and chamber music.
“I love music that has a story to it,” said Benton. In her quest for unique pieces to perform, she discovered Jan Truhlar, a Czech composer oppressed by Communism.
Benton became intrigued by Truhlar’s life story. She spent a summer in Prague and had the opportunity to meet and get to know him. She’s now working on writing his biography.
“Finding pieces that no one has heard or seen performed is one of the greatest things a performer can bring to the stage,” said Benton.
In addition to performing, Benton began teaching early on. When still in high school at Lincoln Park Academy in Fort Pierce, Fla., she started a summer strings camp for kids who couldn’t otherwise afford a music camp.
On a recent outreach visit to her former high school, “Two students actually came up to me and told me they wanted to be music majors because of my camp.”
Apparently, she leaves a lasting impression.
She says, “I’ve had the best teachers that have not only taught me how to play, but also how to put words to the things I’ve experienced outside of the classroom.”
Benton is paying it forward.