Harry Joseph Bennett, Jr.
Harry Bennett, a clarinetist and Seventh-day Adventist music educator and minister, taught music for nearly thirty years. He then served as an ordained minister in Southern California until retirement, following which he continued in the ministry on a part-time basis.
Harry was born in Takoma Park, Maryland, the son of Harry Joseph and Ercel Bradley Bennett. Both parents were singers who had studied with Harold A. Miller and George Greer, noted Adventist choir directors of that era and music teachers at Washington Missionary College, now Washington Adventist University, and Southern Missionary, now Southern Adventist University, respectively. Music was a central activity in their home during Harry's childhood years in Africa, where his parents served as missionaries.
His first music experience, playing with a pump organ, was followed by taking lessons on piano from fellow missionaries. At age fifteen, he started lessons on the clarinet at Helderberg College in South Africa, studying with Robert McManaman, newly arrived head of the music department. A year later, in 1958, he returned to the U.S., where he attended Takoma Academy in Takoma Park, Maryland.
Following graduation from academy in 1959, Bennett enrolled at Southwestern Jr. College, now Southwestern Adventist University, where he studied with Vinson and Anne Bushnell and George W. Schram. He completed a B.S. degree in music education at Union College in 1963, studying under Melvin S. Hill, Melvin Johnson, and Robert Murray.
That fall, Bennett started graduate work at Andrews University, where he studied with Paul Hamel, Hans-Jorgen Holman, Norman Krogstad, and C. Warren Becker, while completing an M.A. in music education. In August 1964, he married Marilyn MacLafferty, a keyboard performer who had studied piano with Vinson Bushnell and Murray, and organ with Opal Miller and Becker. She has been Harry's piano accompanist throughout his career.
Upon graduating from AU in 1965, he accepted a position to organize and direct the band program at the newly-opened Georgia-Cumberland Academy in Georgia. Three years later, the Bennetts accepted an invitation to work in Brazil, where Harry would teach music for the next fourteen years.
Beginning in January 1969, he conducted the band and choir and taught general music at Rio Grande do Sul Academy in southern Brazil. He took thirty instruments to Brazil where his experience in starting up band programs served him well. Five years later, in January 1974, he assumed leadership of the music department at Northeast Brazil College, overseeing a program with twelve teachers and teaching in many areas of music.
He concertized widely throughout most of Brazil with the school's choirs, performing for government dignitaries and appearing with his ensembles on television and radio. His choral groups participated in and won top honors at national and South American music festivals. His years in Brazil were a memorable experience for Bennett, who enjoyed his work with the talented Brazilian youth and their enthusiastic response to sacred and classical music.
By the time he ended his work at the college in December 1981, he had influenced the musical experiences of over a thousand future ministers in Northeastern Brazil and gained government endorsement for the music courses offered at the conservatory, while bringing high quality music to the Adventist schools. In 1980 he was ordained as a minister in recognition of his spiritual leadership in both music and evangelism.
When the Bennetts returned to the U.S. in 1982, he revived the band program at San Diego Academy, a position he held until December 1993. At that time he made a transition into pastoral work in the Paradise Valley Adventist church. Although he officially retired in 2005, he continues to assist in the work of that church on a part-time basis.
Source: Information provided by Harry Bennett, 1998, 9 January 2009, and 1 February 2009; personal knowledge.