AIS: Bennett Blanco

Emelie Patti, Staff Writer

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He has been playing piano since he was only 5 years old, unaware how much it would affect his life.

RJR senior Bennett Blanco came to RJR after he attended Summit in 9th grade and plays for the RJR jazz band.

“Without piano I do not think I would care about music as much as I do,” Blanco said. “ I do not think I would like music or appreciate it as much,” Blanco said. “My favorite thing about piano is the freedom it gives you to express whatever you enjoy about music.”

Bennett has been a part of athletics as well as art at Reynolds.  He has been part of the soccer team for 3 years and enjoyed every second. Blanco played midfield in his final season with the Demons this year where they went 11-6.

Bennett stopped taking private piano lessons but continues playing through the Reynolds arts program. Bennett keeps motivated by his music. As music continues to evolve, Blanco keeps up and uses the changes to drive him further in his piano career.

“The genres that I am interested in are evolving right now so the way that it changes motivates me to keep playing,” Blanco said.

Like any musician, at first the stress and nerves of performing in the crowd can take over but with practice and many performances it gets easier.

When he first came to my program his sophomore year he had horrible performance anxiety,” RJR piano teacher AmyBith Harlee said. “He would have his music and performance completely ready–memorized, beautiful artistic expression–but when he would go to perform he would often draw a blank or freeze mid song. Last year, he made a lot of progress, playing more in class and outside of class. I think if someone you respect and care about believes in you it helps you believe in yourself. ”

Blanco learned an arrangement of Misty, which is the hardest composition he has ever learned. Misty is one of the most popular jazz ballads written in history. Most musicians can recognize the melody after just  a few notes because it is so peculiar.

I am excited that Bennett has taken on the challenge of Jazz band and continues to develop his knowledge of theory that added to his piano technique and ability make him a really well rounded piano player,” Harlee said.

Blanco’s favorite pianist is Oscar Peterson, who was mainly known for his jazz music but unfortunately died in 2007. Peterson had released over 200 recordings and won eight Grammys. He is considered one of the greatest pianists of all time and is an inspiration to Blanco.  

Bennett is very comfortable playing the piano now. He plays for jazz band which usually performs in the Reynolds auditorium and  holds his largest audience. Of course like any musician, he needs to work on technique to make him better. He works to improve himself and work outside his comfort zone.

“I like to stay in my comfort zone a lot and I need to work on pushing myself a little bit harder,”  Blanco said.

Bennett is very pleased with where he is so far, and continues to get inspiration from his mother and grandfather.  As senior year comes to an end, Bennett is taking advantage of the time he has left to play piano and learn more incredible songs.

“Bennett is truly one of my favorite piano students because of his ability, his passion and the sheer beauty of his piano playing,” Harlee said.

Photo provided by Emelie Patti