Smooth jazz romances crowd
Posted Oct. 27, 2006

Maria Villalpando

University of La Verne Alumnus Mike Bennett performed with his group, The Collective, in Founders Auditorium on Oct. 20. Bennett began playing the drums at age 8 and was playing professionally by 14. He was a featured performer at the 2005 Emmy Awards.

The stage in Founders Auditorium was complete with a full drum set, saxophone, guitar and a standing bass on Friday.

As the lights dimmed I was not exactly sure what to expect, but I had high hopes because someone had taken the time to turn the usually squeaky fans off.

University of La Verne alumnus Mike Bennett and his band The Collective, which includes bassist Dylan Wilson, took the stage in front of a crowd of about 20 to 30 people.

With evident disappointment at the small crowd at Bennett’s alma mater, the four men shot each other a few concerned looks.

But then, with a shrug from Bennett, the show began.

Any uncertainty the men held was lost in the music almost immediately.

With a scrunch of his nose and the rock of his head, Bennett tapped the high hat that led the rest of the group in soulful and rhythmic jazz.

“I really like jazz,” said Griffin Wright, a junior from Upland High School and one of Bennett’s private students. “Learning jazz increases your listening ability.”

“When you play jazz you no longer are just playing an instrument; playing jazz teaches you to be a musician,” he added.

Part of being a musician is the passion that comes along with the craft.

One of the best parts of watching and listening to Bennett and The Collective was seeing the enthusiasm that each man had for every note, every pitch change and every new beat.

As the music began to envelop the small crowd, people began to sway and bob to the beat.

The slow dissipation of the sound filling the auditorium caused the uncomfortable seats and the stain on the back curtain to begin to fade away.

I had an overwhelming urge to close my eyes and let the music take me away somewhere else.

Each song seemed so natural and unrehearsed; even though anyone listening could tell that the level of skill that the men possessed could only come from years of practice.

The show hit a high point when the band played their rendition of the classic song “The Way You Look Tonight.”

Almost every female in the audience sighed in disbelief at the romance that filled the air.

The music was so moving that it even inspired a young couple to get up and dance slowly in the aisle.

But then, as the performance came to an end, Founders Auditorium slowly came into focus and reality set in again.

“It was nice to see a former student come back to play,” said Eva Hinojoza, a senior music major.

“It gives you the sense that you could do that one day,” she added.

Bennett graduated from ULV with his bachelor’s degree in music in 2004.

Even while studying at ULV Bennett had a blossoming professional career.

Bennett started playing the drums when he was 8 and was playing professionally by 14.

Despite all of his gigs and work schedule, he still makes time to teach private lessons.

“He’s a great teacher,” Wright said. “I think his youngest [student] is 8 years old but he is also teaching a lawyer in his mid-40s.”

Bennett has training in several different areas and plays several different types of shows, but jazz is his passion.

“I don’t really listen to that kind of music, but if I did I would listen to them,” said Antoinette Borders, a sophomore criminology major.

For more information, visit

The music department will host another concert,”What She Said,” at 8 p.m. tomorrow in Founders Auditorium.

Jillian Peña can be reached at

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