Jazz musician Dave Bennett puts his work into perspective, and won't accept attitude

December 18, 2015

One thing that makes Dave Bennett mad – and there may really only be one thing – is someone else’s bad attitude.

The hard-working jazz musician and his band will make another swing into town this weekend for a holiday performance with the Elkhart County Symphony Orchestra. The 7:30 p.m. Saturday show will take place in the Lerner Theatre in downtown Elkhart.

“This is the busiest two or three months I’ve ever had. I owe that to the Holy Spirit. He’s the one who keeps me working, even when a lot of others are hurting for work,” Bennett says. “ … Even after all these years performing, it really makes me happy to see other people happy.

“I’ve known musicians that get in spots where they have a bad day, whine about a gig. That’s when I tend to lose my niceness and tell them to bite the bullet. This is the greatest job you could ever have.”

Bennett has been a consistent Elkhart Jazz Festival performer for the last 15 years, coupling clarinet clarity reminiscent of Benny Goodman with his energetic take on rockabilly at the piano. His following in Elkhart, in a word, is significant – after his symphony show, he’ll return in June for a jazz fest preview party sponsored by the Four Arts Club.

“I have to say the people of Elkhart have taken me in,” Bennett says, “but I don’t feel I’ve done anything out of the ordinary. I do my job and what I do, and the people have responded. The festival really does get better every year, the crowds get better, and it is almost like we’ve become family.”

Leading up to Saturday’s show, Bennett will have had only two rehearsals with the orchestra. He says that type of arrangement is a “different sort of experience,” requiring him to be even more precise in execution. But the opportunity to play with the symphony “is very exciting and special, because all that sound just surrounds you. …

“And it’s such a great opportunity to celebrate Christmas and be open with it in today’s day and age. We’re really celebrating for all the right reasons – that restores your faith in humanity a bit. With my (schedule), I’m on the go and life’s anything but normal. So to help contribute to someone else’s Christmas … that gives me a warm feeling, for sure.”

Aside from the constant performance schedule, Bennett is also carving out time to work with a co-writer on original material for a new record he hopes may release in 2016. He’s also working on a show that will bridge the story of music from swing to rock ‘n roll, also including original compositions.

All of that doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for honing his skills.

“I definitely don’t get as much time as I’d like to practice. When I was starting off, maybe the first four years, I’d try to get four to eight hours a day. It takes a lot of work, because it goes away quick,” Bennett says. “But life gets in the way. You can’t practice all the time when you’re an adult, but you also can’t just pick it up and go. That’s added pressure, but when you love what you do, it’s not much of a chore.”