At five, Benjamin Parton simply wanted to be like his older violin-playing brother.
His competitive streak of simply wanting to be better at strings than his brother waned as he honored his calling as a musical prodigy.
Submersed in a gene pool of musical talent, Parton’s mother plays the piano and his guitar-picking father was known for strumming to Parton and his three siblings while in the womb.
“Music has always been there,” says Parton, “and through the years, I just became more determined to be a violinist.”
By seven, bedtime visions were of the world-famous Carnegie Hall through a framed picture that hung over his bed. A decade later, at seventeen, Parton took his long awaited bow on the stage of Carnegie Hall, after leaving the mountains of Sevierville to board a plane for the first time as one of 120 teenage musical geniuses of the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America.
Along with racking up frequent flier miles for two summers, Parton “fulfilled his childhood dreams” of performing across the country and Europe in the company of world-renowned violinists Joshua Bell, Gil Shaham, and Vadim Repin, and conductors Valery Gergiev and David Robertson.
He nailed the concertmaster experience for the most advanced ensemble of the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra during his last two years of high school before claiming UT as the place he would study violin performance.
A sophomore, Parton continues to get a taste of what he wants his full-time, after-college gig to be as the concertmaster of the UT Symphony Orchestra.
UT could have easily been replaced by the Cleveland Institute of Music if it had not been for the Carol and Robert Aebersold Endowed Scholarship for the School of Music. Created for students who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to pursue college, let alone their music dreams, the scholarship is a bridge of possibility for students like Parton.
“It made all the difference,” explains Parton of the scholarship. “One of the hardships of having a music education throughout the years is cost. For someone like me, who does not come from a financially well-off family, it has always been hard to find ways to provide for lessons, travel, new instruments, and accessories, so it’s a big deal that my family is not carrying the burden of my college education.
“I will graduate having received the best quality education in my own backyard without the stress of paying student loans. Giving makes humanity prosper, and I am thankful to be on the receiving end of it.”
– CHANDRA HARRIS-McCRAY