Benjamin Cornelius-Bates, MM, AD, FAGO, grew up in Alaska, but did not study the organ until he attended the University of Montana, Missoula in 2001. There he studied with Dr. Nancy Cooper and earned a BM in Organ Performance. After moving to Vancouver, British Columbia with his wife, Benjamin studied organ with Rachel Alflatt and composition with her husband Denis Bédard. Benjamin earned his MM in Sacred Music from Duquesne University in 2009 and an Artist’s Diploma in 2011 studying with Dr. Ann Labounsky, emphasizing improvisation. He is organist and Director of Music Ministries at St. Paul of the Cross Monastery in Pittsburgh, PA. Currently, Benjamin is pursuing a Doctorate in Music Composition at West Virginia University, studying with Dr. Matthew Heap, Dr. David Taddie, and Dr. Joseph Dangerfield.
As a composer, Benjamin, has had his compositions played throughout the world, including the United States, Canada, France, England, Italy, Netherlands, and Germany. His piece, Fête, was a finalist in the 2012 Kansas City AGO Composition Competition.Benjamin was commissioned by Carson Cooman to write the work, Fantasia primi toni, for organ in the Fall of 2014. Mr. Cooman has also recorded a number Benjamin’s works and can be heard on his Youtube channel. The First Readings Project in Minneapolis, Minnesota premiered the choral work, Ave Maris Stella, in May 2015. Two of Ben’s works were selected for the Bayoubüchlein, a collection of preludes and postludes on modern hymn tunes. One of those works, a prelude to O God You Search Me, was premiered at the 2016 National Convention for the American Guild of Organists in Houston. In July 2018, the Sonata No. 1, will be premiered by Jennifer Pascual at the 2018 National Convention for the American Guild of Organists in Kansas City as on of their major commissions. In August 2018, Benjamin will be premiering his Sonata No. 2 at St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh, PA, a companion work to the Sonata No. 1.
As an improviser, he was a semi-finalist at the 2011 André Marchal International Improvisation Competition held in Biarritz, France and was invited to the 2013 Arthur Piechler Improvisation Competition held in Landau, Germany. Benjamin competed in the 2015 Improvisation Competition held at the 55th Annual Conference on Organ Music at the University of Michigan. Lately, he has been exploring more avant garde improvisations in a series titled Evening Improvisations.
Benjamin has lectured and served on panels regarding Liturgy and Sacred Music. He served as a panelist on Sacred Music at the 2015 National Pastoral Musicians Convention held in Grand Rapids Michigan. The panel was featured on the Pray Tell blog. He has lectured on the use of rhetoric in Baroque music as well as the performance issues surrounding temperament in early music. Benjamin has held various academic positions in the Pittsburgh region and in the coming 2018-2019 year will teach aural and written music theory at Duquesne University and piano at Washington and Jefferson College.