Northwestern Magazine
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Ethan Bensdorf

Horn of Potential

For Ethan Bensdorf, appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Show was no big deal. The trumpet major from Evanston had already played gigs with artists such as indie rocker Sufjan Stevens and popular crooner Johnny Mathis. Bensdorf added the TV diva’s talk show to his résumé when he played with the backup orchestra for the pop-opera crossover quartet Il Divo for the Dec. 6 show.

As an affirmation of his musical talent, Bensdorf was selected from among 100 trumpeters when he won first prize in the 2006 Armando Ghitalla Trumpet Competition. He received a $7,500 cash award, one of the largest available to trumpeters, and a guest appearance with the Berkshire Symphony Orchestra in Massachusetts.

While a student at Northwestern he has performed with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and the Chicago Chamber Orchestra. He was also one of four Northwestern students who performed in 2005 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Bensdorf’s passion for the trumpet began in fifth grade, and after watching his sister, professional oboist Naomi Bensdorf (Mu99), graduate from Northwestern, he couldn’t picture himself doing anything else.

“So much of what I have learned here is about how to portray what I want through my music,” Bensdorf says. “If people can say that I communicated to them with my trumpet, moved them in any way, or told a story, really said something with my music, then that would be an ultimate high for me.”

Bensdorf, who was a finalist for the principal trumpet with the San Francisco Symphony and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, is well on his way to realizing his dream.

— Caitlin Henning (WCAS07)

Photo by Bill Arsenault