“Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the
piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one
key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.”
— Wassily Kandinsky
There is absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind – after spending some time with concert pianist and composer Moshe Benson and hearing him perform – his name will one day be in the bright lights. Just 20 years old, he can’t walk down the street without being drawn into the rhythm of his surroundings and hearing a song spring to life in his mind. MCM met up with the talented, young musician at the Flint Institute of Music where he has performed and been classically trained since he was 11 years old.
Moshe was born in Flint and raised in Clio, the son of Alex and Deborah Benson. A graduate of Flushing High School, he is currently attending the University of Michigan-Flint where he studies piano performance and music competition. He was just 17 months old when his natural ear for music was discovered. “My mom always loved music and she always played classical music,” Moshe remembers. One day she played “Jingle Bells” on the piano, and when she finished, she got up and left the room. “I hopped up on the bench and started playing!” Moshe exclaims, mimicking his mother’s rendition of “Jingle Bells” – chords and all. His parents thought that someone had turned on the television; they were amazed to find that it was their tiny son they heard at the keyboard.
“I have a God-given gift,” Moshe says, humbly. And luckily, his parents realized his talent and believed that it was their duty to foster it. They purchased a piano at a rummage sale for $50 (which was badly out of tune), so that Moshe could learn to play. “I still have that piano,” he laughs. He began taking lessions from a teacher in Clio. She soon realized that Moshe had a natural ear for music, but she wanted him to learn to read music. “I outgrew her,” he says of that teacher. He went on to a different teacher, and she said the same thing. At 11, Moshe started taking lessons from Ms. Ida Leschinskaya at FIM and continued his studies with her until he graduated from high school. “FIM was my second home,” he admits.
Moshe went out of state to attend Iowa State University for a couple of semesters, then returned to Flint in June of 2016 and transferred to UM-Flint. “And, I’m still taking lessons from Ms. Ida,” he adds. “She’s like my piano mother, a second mom to me.”
Throughout the years, Moshe has performed all over the country and in many competitions. His very first one was a high school competition held at FIM. At that time, he had only been taking lessons from Ms. Ida for about two weeks. “She didn’t think I was ready to compete,” Moshe recalls. His mother, however, thought he was ready. “I won first place!” he exclaims. “I couldn’t stop grinning. I was 11 years old and wasn’t even classically trained yet.” That was a big turning point for Moshe. “I knew that I needed to do something with this and pursue my talent.”
Another competition that stands out for Moshe is the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technical Science Olympics (ACT-SO). “It’s huge,” he says. “I competed every year in high school, and I won nationally in my freshman year. I’ve won numerous competitions in Michigan and in other states, as well.” He hopes to one day compete in the William C. Byrd Young Artist Competition, a prestigious international event held right here in Flint at the FIM.
What’s Moshe’s favorite music to play? “I love romantic music,” he smiles. “There is no limit with romantic music. It comes from the heart. And, I love Russian composers.” His favorite Russian composer is Alexander Scriabin.
The young pianist credits much of his success to his parents. “They believed in me,” he says. He also gives much credit to his beloved teacher, Ms. Ida, who is still teaching him. “She molded me into who I am as a pianist,” he shares. “She showed me the art in music, taught me the emotional aspect.” And, Moshe says he will always be a student. “As a performer, you can never stop learning. I feel like there is always something that I can do better.”
Now, Moshe spends several hours a day practicing the piano, fitting it in between working at Art Van Furniture, studying, going to school and helping to care for his infant son, who was born last December. He also gives piano lessons and performs at different venues such as weddings, conferences and private parties. “I definitely get around town,” he says with a smile.
What does the future hold for this talented young man? He aspires to become a film score composer and concert pianist. “In the next five years, I see myself landing my first film score, or game score,” Moshe says. “I want everyone to hear my music one day. I feel that I’m able to convey all my emotions through music. Music is the universal law. I’m so blessed that God gave me this gift.”
Photography by Eric Dutro