New London senior strives for Black excellence
New London ― Adrianna Benjamin fell in love with music at a young age, and it has always been a big part of her life.
Her mother Kathleen Benjamin, known in the community as “Ms. B,“ was the children choir director at Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in New London and her uncle played the keys. Benjamin also grew up listening to some of music’s greatest, including Aretha Franklin, James Brown and Whitney Houston.
By the time she got her hands on an instrument, Benjamin learned quickly and went from playing a flute to a trumpet to the french horn.
Benjamin is among the graduating class at New London High School Multi-Magnet campus. In the fall, she will attend Morgan State University in Baltimore to major in electrical engineering with a full-ride band scholarship.
Benjamin said she has always enjoyed hands-on work and math. In a lot of ways, music is math to her when it comes to reading music and figuring out the tempo.
Band Director John DelVento said it was Benjamin’s passion, dedication and musical excellence that led him to choose her as this year's band president.
“She has guided our band program through a very busy two years of growth and has left a lasting impact on our entire music program and school,” DelVento said. “Adrianna will be very missed, but I know she will be doing great things.”
Apart from band, Benjamin said she has participated and held leadership roles in student government, cheerleading and the track and field team, playing shot put and discus.
“I can’t sit still,” Benjamin said, reflecting on all her extracurricular activities. “I’m very proud of myself and thankful to have great role models.”
Benjamin said her mom is one of her role models. She said her mom never gives up, finds the good in all things and has always been big on Black excellence and empowerment. To young Benjamin, Black excellence means achieving a lot when people think you can’t because of who you are.
She said some of her family members have attended historically Black colleges and universities, and she’s always envisioned going to one too. She was also inspired by watching films like “Drumline,” in which college bands compete fiercely.
Having a sister in Maryland, Benjamin said she would often see the Morgan State campus and considered it her school of choice. She was accepted, but did not expect to receive a full-ride scholarship.
Auditioning in March over Zoom, Benjamin said she played two short pieces highlighting her french horn skills, and when she was done, was told she was accepted into the band and would get the scholarship. After the call, she said she immediately ran to DelVento and thanked him.
Visual and Performing Arts teacher Darryl Semple has taught Benjamin in multiple capacities during her school education and a few years ago taught her in a class called History of African American Music. He said it was there he became aware of her diligence and work ethic.
“She often proved to be the most spirited student in the class, engaging the other students in poignant class discussions,” he said. “I have come to see this young lady as a bright pathway to the future generations of America.”
Benjamin said she is ready for the challenges that come with college and playing in a competitive college band.
“I’ll overcome them with my focus to graduate,” she said. “I have to be positive or will risk bringing myself down.”
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