Benjamin Keith Gish

1957 -

Benjamin Gish, a cellist, enjoys a reputation as an accomplished performer and inspiring teacher of the instrument. He directs string activities and assists with other ensembles as needed at Walla Walla Valley Academy and is an adjunct instructor in cello at Walla Walla University, positions he has held since 1993. He has also been actively involved with the Walla Symphony for over twenty years.

Benjamin was born in Portland, Oregon, one of three children and the only son of William and Nona Cramer Gish. Music had been an important activity in the Gish family for at least two prior generations and it was only natural that he would start cello lessons at the age of nine and flourish in his study.

After attending Gem State Academy in Idaho for three years, he moved to Walla Walla, where he completed high school while starting study at Walla Walla College, now University. During his undergraduate study at WWC, he studied primarily with Christopher von Baeyer at Washington State University. Glenn Spring, orchestra director and theory teacher at WWC, along with von Baeyer, were important persons in his musical and personal development during this time.

Following graduation from WWC in 1979 with a B.Mus. in cello performance, he completed an M.Mus. in cello performance and conducting at Andrews University in 1981. While studying at AU, Gish received the Weniger Scholarship, a full tuition award for graduate study, and in 1980 won the Music Teachers National Association competition in cello in the state of Michigan. In 1980 he also spent four weeks at Meadowmount Summer School of Music and attended the Herbert Blomstedt conducting workshop at Loma Linda University.

He began his teaching career at Cedar Lake Academy, now Great Lakes Academy, in Michigan in 1981. In his four years at CLA, he did two years of doctoral study in cello at Michigan State University. He studied cello with Owen Carman at MSU from 1979 to 1984, and also with Joel Krosnig, cellist of the Juilliard String Quartet, who was in part time residence at MSU, from 1981 to 1984. Gish also studied with Channing Robbins, assistant to Leonard Rose at Juilliard, when he was at Meadowmount in the summer of 1980.

In 1985, Gish accepted a position at Forest Lake Academy in Florida, where he coordinated a string program between the academy and three grade schools in the region. While living in central Florida, he played frequently for numerous Florida Hospital and Disney events, was principal cellist for the Rollins College Orchestra from 1990 to 1993, and was a substitute cellist in several orchestras in central Florida.

An active performer, Gish gave three undergraduate recitals at WWC, three graduate recitals at AU, and two recitals during his doctoral work at MSU. He has since given numerous recitals and performed frequently in chamber music groups. Beginning in 1985, he and James M. Breckenridge of Southwestern Oklahoma State University gave a number of recitals in Florida, the Midwest, and Northwest as the Gish/Breckenridge Duo. These continued until shortly before Breckenridge died in 2009.

While still a student at WWC, Gish had served as a member of the Walla Walla Symphony. Upon his return to teach at the academy and college in 1993, he resumed playing in the WWSO and serves as the co-principal cello of the orchestra and has soloed with the group. From 2008-2011 he directed the Walla Walla Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Gish is well known for his effectiveness as a teacher and has always had a full studio schedule. His students have won in numerous competitions, received significant scholarships to several schools, and been primary players in and soloists with local and regional orchestras.

One of these students, Sam Johnson, soloed with the Detroit and Ann Arbor symphonies as well as with orchestras in the Northwest, including two appearances with the Oregon Symphony in Portland. Johnson enjoyed private sessions with both Itzahk Perlman and Yo Yo Ma and was chosen to perform at the Isaac Stern Lifetime Achievement Award Presentation, along with Sara Chang.

Gish has been active in Suzuki String Institutes and has taken several units in Teacher Training. He played a key role both as a teacher and conductor in Kathleen Spring's String Preparatory Program from 1993 to 2000, when she left Walla Walla area, and continues to support and work in Suzuki-related activities at nearby Rogers Elementary School and in the region.

Gish collaborated with Glenn and Kathleen Spring, valued friends and mentors throughout his career, in the founding and direction of Cantabile, a community string orchestra in Walla Walla, Washington, that provided a challenging performance opportunity for advanced young players. During its six years of existence, from 1994 to 2000, the ensemble performed often and toured in Europe and Canada. In the summer of 2011, he took the WWVA orchestra on a ten-day tour of Europe.

For the past 25 years, Gish has attended numerous summer music camps nationwide, initially in the role of student and more recently as a parent, faculty, and guest artist. In 2011 he was guest artist for the Rochester Chamber Music Society, taught at the Green Mountain Suzuki Institute, and served as director of the Walla Walla Suzuki Institute.

Following graduation from WWC in 1979, Gish married Connie Camp. They have two children, Julia and Jamie, both of whom play string instruments. Julia completed a doctorate in violin performance at the University of Southern California in 2010 and is now on the faculty at Eastern Washington University. Jamie, a sophomore engineering major at Walla Walla University and presently serving as a student Missionary in Yap, is a cellist.


 Sources: Resume and other information provided by Benjamin Gish, 2012 and 2013; Opus, Walla Walla College music department newsletter, all summer issues, 1993, 7; 1994, 12; 1995, 9; 1996, 12; 1997, 8; 1998, 15; 1999, 12; 2000, 11. Sheila Hagar, "Organizers hope youth orchestra will crescendo, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, 17 August 2008, 1; "Personal Knowledge. See also Julia Gish-Salerno biography.