Benje Daneman Commits to His Art


Benje Daneman’s new album is Light In The Darkness.

(Photo: Grant Beachy)

Michigan-based trumpeter/flugelhornist Benje Daneman is perpetually busy. In addition to releasing Light In The Darkness (JCI), a new album with his band SearchParty, he’s also a teacher who works with numerous music organizations. He directs the Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra, and he devotes up to 30 hours per week working as education manager for the Kalamazoo Symphony.

Benje’s chief collaborator is his wife, singer-songwriter Ashley Daneman. The two met in New York in 2008 during a rehearsal at Manhattan School of Music. They went on to co-found the Jazz & Creative Institute in 2014, and they currently serve as its co-directors. Ashley figures prominently on Light In The Darkness—a deft mix of written and improvised music carried by themes of light and darkness.

Benje and Ashley’s SearchParty bandmates are all Chicagoans: alto saxophonist Greg Ward, pianist Rob Clearfield, bassist Andrew Vogt and drummer Jon Deitemyer. Benje proves to be a generous bandleader, and his Clifford Brown-inspired trumpet playing is but one voice in the sterling sextet.

Benje and Ashley’s top priorities nowadays are raising their three children and running the Kalamazoo-based Jazz & Creative Institute (co-founded with Nich Mueller). According to Benje, “The deeper vision for the organization is to become not just an avocational resource but a resource for professionals, for students, for anyone in jazz wondering, ‘How do I take the next step?’ We believe if you build it, they will come.”

He added that the aim is to build “a life in the arts through educational programs, mentoring and performances.” The institute is a jazz school that includes a performance venue, private lessons and jam sessions.

Benje’s education projects include the Trumpet Workshop, a three-day intensive that he co-directs with classical trumpeter Keith Geiman. “This summer was our fifth workshop, held at Kalamazoo College,” Benje said of the program, which attracts nearly 30 regional high-school and middle-school trumpeters.

Benje’s relationship with Ashley fuels and motivates him: “We’ve spent a lot of our time over the past 10 years learning how to work with each other,” he said. “We’ve created a foundation. It’s a slow burn.”

“Benje and I have a foundational commitment to both of us living and working as performing artists and pursuing our careers,” said Ashely, whose 2015 album, Beauty Indestructible, includes Benje on trumpet. “We unwaveringly support each other in spite of the challenges it presents as parents.” DB

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December 2023
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