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Renowned British flutist William Bennett to perform on Tuesday, Feb. 6

As a teenager, acclaimed British flute player William Bennett started taking lessons with Geoffrey Gilbert, once a Stetson University flute professor. Even at age 81, Bennett still remembers all that he learned from his renowned teacher.

William Bennett stands in black tux holding a flute

Acclaimed British flute player William Bennett will perform a free concert on Tuesday, Feb. 6, at Stetson University in DeLand. Photo provided by Monya Gilbert

“At 16, I started having lessons with Geoffrey Gilbert,” said Bennett on his website, recalling his lessons at Guildhall School of Music in Britain, before Gilbert joined Stetson. “And every time I heard him playing on the radio I thought, “Oh, that’s wonderful. If I could only play half as well as that, I’d be happy”. Geoffrey was the best teacher in the world as far as I was concerned, and I still think he is. In fact, I am constantly remembering and being thankful for having had the luck to have learnt with him.”

Bennett will perform a free concert on Tuesday, Feb. 6, at Stetson University in DeLand and also will conduct master classes with students in Stetson’s School of Music during his visit.

The London-born Bennett has recorded more than 100 CDs as a soloist, and he has served as principal flute in the London Symphony Orchestra, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and other prestigious music ensembles. His fans include Queen Elizabeth II of England, who in 1995 awarded Bennett with the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (O.B.E) for his “distinguished services to music.”

Bennett is “unique and unrivalled, it seems to me, as both an orchestral flute player and a soloist,” said Edward Blakeman, a fellow flutist and one-time music producer for BBC Radio.

Bennett began playing flute at age 12, and then went on to become a student of renowned flute teacher Geoffrey Gilbert.

In 1969, Gilbert, who also was an internationally acclaimed orchestral performer, moved with his wife, Marjorie, to DeLand, where both took positions at Stetson University. He served as director of instrumental studies, conductor-in-residence and studio flute teacher at the university until his retirement in 1979. Marjorie took a teaching position in the theater department.

Upon his death in 1989, Geoffrey Gilbert was proclaimed “the most influential British flutist of the 20th century” by the London Times.

A candid group shot of the three of them.

British flute player William Bennett, center, is pictured in this undated photo with the late Geoffrey Gilbert, left, his former teacher and one-time Stetson University flute professor. At right is Monya Winzer Gilbert, daughter of Geoffrey Gilbert. Photo provided by Monya Gilbert

Gilbert’s life and career are recounted in a new documentary, “Geoffrey Gilbert – Gentleman of the Flute,” which includes commentary by Bennett.

The documentary was produced by Gilbert’s daughter Monya Winzer Gilbert, who moved to the U.S. from London in 1971 and currently lives in DeLand. A former professional violinist and flute player, as well as an administrator with numerous arts organizations, Monya still maintains close ties with Bennett and his wife, Michie.

Geoffrey Gilbert “brought Britain out of the dark ages of flute playing,” Bennett says in the documentary about his teacher. “He got them away from that dreadful non-vibrato straight trumpet-like tone, which had its advantages at odd times, but it really wasn’t the sound of the flute at all.”

Elsewhere in the documentary, Bennett notes: “I still often think ‘Gosh, I’m in confusion. I wish I could sort it out like Geoffrey would.’ He would come up with some perfectly reasonable way of dealing with the problem — human problems as well as musical ones.”

Early in his career, Bennett made the first English recording of the complete Handel Flute Sonatas, and he has recorded the standard flute repertoire of Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Mozart and other composers.

Bennett, who turns 82 on Feb. 7, has served as Professor of Flute in the Freiburg Hochschule of Music in Germany, and he teaches at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He also teaches master classes throughout the world.

— Rick de Yampert


William Bennett in a deep blue shirt, holding a flute

William Bennett

If You Go:
William Bennett will perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 6, in Lee Chapel at Elizabeth Hall, on the Stetson campus at 421 N. Woodland Blvd., DeLand. Bennett will be joined by pianist Kelleen Strutz.
Admission is free and open to the public.
For more information, call the School of Music at 386-822-8950 or go online.