FLORENCE---Benjamin Woods of Florence has been selected the J. Lorin Mason Distinguished Professor for the 2005-06 year at Francis Marion University.
Announced at a campus banquet April 20, this award has been given since the 1975-76 school year and is based upon a faculty member’s contributions to teaching, professional service and scholarly activities.
The award, named in honor of the former chairman of the FMU Board of Trustees, is the highest honor to be bestowed upon a faculty member. It will be presented at FMU’s spring commencement Saturday, May 6. The award carries a cash prize.
As a result of his selection, Woods will be the Francis Marion University nominee for the Governor’s Professor of the Year Award competition next fall.
“Woods is recognized as a superlative piano teacher and for his outstanding service to the university and community,” said Fred Carter, FMU president. He also praised Woods for his creative performance as an artist.
“For more than 30 years, his students have held him in high regard as a caring and compassionate teacher, and the community has enjoyed his musical talents,” said Carter.
A native of Port Arthur, Texas, Woods has been a member of the FMU faculty since 1972. A professor of music, he was named an FMU Trustees Research Scholar in 2004. He earned a bachelor’s degree in piano performance and music education at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, in 1969, a master’s degree in music from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, in 1972, and a doctorate in musical arts from the University of South Carolina in 1991.
Woods has given numerous solo piano concerts across the country, including Coolidge Hall of the Library of Congress and Carnegie Recital Hall in New York City where he made his debut in 1985. He has performed many faculty recitals, chamber music and solo concerts at numerous other colleges and universities, and performances at community concert series and festivals. With the Florence Symphony, the Mississippi Symphony, the Baylor University Symphony and the S.C. Philharmonic, he has performed concertos of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Gershwin.
He was one of 12 national finalists in the U.S. Information Agency’s Artistic Ambassador Competition, and one of 10 finalists in the Beethoven International Piano Competition.
Besides performing chamber music in the Woods Family Ensemble with his wife, Sherry, violist, and their children, Christopher, violinist, and Adrienne, cellist, he has collaborated in recital with the Firenze String Quartet, and with artists Sue Orr, soprano, Roland LeRoy Skinner, bassoonist, and William Mills, pianist. He also has given recitals with Kathleen Vandekieft, Metropolitan Opera soprano finalist, Harold Jones, concert flutist, and Steve Maxym, principal bassoonist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
He has conducted concerts of the FMU Chorus and the Florence Symphony Orchestra Choral Society. He conducted the Florence Masterworks Choir and Orchestra in performances of the Poulenc Organ Concerto with William Mills, organist, and a performance of the Vaughn Williams’ Toward an Unknown Region, and the Haydn Lord Nelson Mass.
A guest conductor before his appointment, Woods was named music director and conductor of the Florence Symphony, and served from 1996 to 2002, where one of his greatest triumphs was conducting a joint venture of the Masterworks Choir and the symphony, with the assistance of the West Florence and Wilson High School choruses, in a performance of the monumental Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
In addition to directing symphonic literature, he conducted the Florence Symphony in collaboration with internationally known solo artists such as David Kim, violinist, Walter Hautzig and Raymond Dudley, pianists, and the Eroica Trio, as well as esteemed colleagues Robert Jesselson and Kenneth Law, cellists, Kathleen Vandekieft and Sue Orr, sopranos, Michael Kim, Charles Fugo, Kent Lyman and Dana Dixon, pianists, and many fine soloists of the Florence Symphony Orchestra and the greater Florence community.
He also has shared the musical talents of his children, Christopher and Adrienne, in solo concerto performances, as well as the compositional talents of his wife, Sherry.
#176 / 4-20-06