Passion, hard work and talent are just some of the qualities Jonah Bennett exhibits when it comes to his music.
Bennett, a junior music major, Kearney native and award-winning bassist, has been interested in playing instruments since a young age. He first took up piano at age 7 and later found his passion for the bass in 5th grade after attending a summer orchestra camp. He then went on to participate in his church worship team and in Kearney High School’s orchestra and jazz band.
His love for music remained through high school, and Bennett applied to the Glenn Korff School of Music at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to further expand his music career and stay close to his family. Bennett also acknowledges that being at the school has granted him the opportunity to try various styles of music, something he admired about being a bassist in the first place.
“As a bassist, I'm afforded a wide variety of groups to play with, from bluegrass to jazz to classical to religious music,” he said. “I love to add a solid bottom end to whatever group I'm playing with.”
Bennett’s hard work and dedication has paid off — he was selected to partake in and won the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra Young Jazz Artist Competition, a local contest for artists under 22 years old. Bennett is 20.
The audition process for the competition included an initial video submission of Bennett playing his bass. After he was selected, he was asked to come in for a live audition at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. He received a cash prize for winning as well as the opportunity to perform as a featured artist with the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra on May 16 at The Cornhusker Marriott. For the concert, he will choose three songs with the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra to have a solo in.
“When I made it to the audition, I was pretty nervous as the students playing before me sounded great,” he said. “It had to be a tough decision, as all the players were fantastic. I was surprised and excited when my name was announced, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to play.”
Bennett’s work and persona have caught others’ attention and have gained him many new friends in college, including senior music major Abigail Siedell, who met Bennett in a jazz group at the university last year.
“He used to be pretty quiet back then, probably because we didn’t know each other yet,” Siedell said. “But one of the first things that stood out to me about him was how he didn’t speak up often in rehearsal. But every time he did say something, it wasn’t just filler nonsense.”
Siedell said she thinks people could benefit from having Bennett’s humility and perseverance and encourages others to follow his example. People should not expect success to be handed to them, she said, as success comes when it’s earned, not demanded.
“Jonah never expects to be handed anything and never feels entitled to anything. Even all the awards, successful auditions and positive feedback he experiences comes to him as a pleasant surprise,” she said. “Even behind the scenes in our conversations one-on-one, he has never shown an entitled attitude or willingness to settle for the easy way out.”
However, Bennett wasn’t able to accomplish this all on his own. He gives credit to his family, friends and teachers for his success and his dedication. Although he’s currently pursuing a degree in musical education, Bennett said he doesn’t have any plans set for after college, but there’s a possibility he will attend graduate school for music.
“I'm thankful and grateful for those who have helped me grow and pushed me to improve,” he said. “I wouldn't be the musician I am if it weren’t for my peers and teachers.”