Richland Academy of the Arts Appoints New Executive Director, Dr. Michael Benson


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MANSFIELD – The Richland Academy of the Arts (RAA) Board of Directors has named Dr. Michael Benson, NCTM (Nationally Certified Teacher of Music) as the new Executive Director.

Dr. Benson’s extensive arts background, combined with a deep passion for education and community collaboration, will help to further advance the mission of the organization that celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. “We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Benson as our new Executive Director,” says Brian Hamilton, Richland Academy Board of Directors, President. “He brings experience, enthusiasm, great communication skills and fresh perspective to the Academy.”

Dr. Benson assumes the role of Executive Director this month following the legacy of Founder and first Executive Director, Marianne Cooper, after 30 years of service. Over the last 30 years, her vision-made reality has provided education, experiences, and opportunities for students of all ages to Explore the Artist Within. The foundation she has created will continue to serve and support the future of Richland Academy of the Arts throughout years to come.

Richland Academy of the Arts is the area’s leading extracurricular arts academy that provides students of all ages and experience with an opportunity to explore the arts through visual art, music, theatre, martial arts, and dance. With a purpose to provide quality programing in both Arts Education and Development, RAA looks forward to the next season of leadership under Dr. Benson.

Dr. Benson served as Professor of Music, Coordinator of Keyboard Studies, and Director of the Malone University Preparatory Program at Malone University for the past eleven years. He served eight years as Department Chair for Music and completed a two-year term as Faculty Chair in May 2019. He has performed at the Smithsonian Institution, Steinway Hall in New York, and in Chicago at Preston Bradley Hall on the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series and contributed to numerous published articles. His teaching experience spans from Interlochen Summer Camps in Texas to Ohio State Lima, University of Wisconsin- Whitewater, Oakland University (MI) and Carl Sandburg College in Illinois prior to his tenure with Malone University. During Fall 2001, he was invited to teach piano, piano pedagogy, and group piano as a foreign expert at JiMei University in Xiamen, People’s Republic of China.

He continues to be active in Ohio Music Teachers Association (OhioMTA) where he serves as the Buckeye Auditions Chairperson and host. He has also served OhioMTA as the State Chair for Professional Piano Certification and was Northwest District Chair for two terms as well as Buckeye Auditions Chair for the Northwest and Middle-West Districts. Other offices include serving for two terms as the East Central Division Commissioner for Professional Certification.

He completed a term as Vice President for Membership on the Executive Board for OhioMTA in 2018. Currently, he is serving as a Board member for the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education.

Dr. Benson holds a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University where he studied piano with Dr. Robert Roux. He holds the Master of Music and Doctoral of Musical Arts degrees from The University of Texas at Austin where he studied piano and piano pedagogy with Professors Martha Hilley, Sophia Gilmson and Nancy Garrett.

Michael and his wife Denise live in Lexington, Ohio where Denise teaches high school math and coaches the Lexington High School boys and girls cross-country teams. They have one son, Kevin, who is pursuing a terminal degree in bio-medical engineering at Penn State University and a soon-to-be daughter-in-law named Ali Saneda who is a physical therapist.

For more information on things happening at Richland Academy, call (419) 522-8224 or visit www.richlandacademy.com. Scholarship and tuition opportunities are available. “Richland Academy… where anyone can explore the artist within,” located at the corner of 4th and Walnut St. was founded in 1991 and is supported by the Ohio Arts Council.

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