Still Singing: Soprano Diane Benton
SINGING HER HEART OUT Diane Benton began formal training when she was 32. Now, the soprano sings often. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Elizabeth Hall / special to The Star
Dec. 8, 2002
With nearly 30 years of public performances under her belt, Diane Benton has become something of a local diva.
Her most recent appearance, as the soprano soloist in John Rutter's "Gloria," revealed a voice that continues to improve a rarity among vocalists who generally hit a peak in their 30s and slowly decline with age.
Benton didn't begin formal training until she was 32.
By Benton's second year at Miami Day Junior College, she wanted to major in voice and changed all of her education classes to music. But she was unable to win her parents' approval and put her singing on hold.
Some 10 years later, after moving to Meridian with her husband, Benton was determined to give her voice a second chance.
She began taking voice lessons from Dr. Bob Hermetz at Meridian Community College.
Before long, Benton was a regular soloist with the Meridian Community Chorus and the Meridian Symphony Orchestra. She also joined a small chamber group led by Dick Brown, former associate conductor of the MSO, and took several theory and music history classes.
By the early 1980s, Benton was eager to share her love of music with others. She accepted a position at Meridian High School as the choral director and taught two young singers who later turned professional: Mary Ann Kyle and Eric Hoven.
In 1983, she became the choir director at First Christian Church a job she would hold, and love, for 16 years.
These days, Benton is a devoted choir member at First Baptist Church and more active than ever in the Meridian music community.
While many know her best for her breathtaking renditions of Handel, Bach, and Mozart, she said she loves all styles of music and has always dreamed of being "a torch-singer with a big band."
At any rate, Benton is living, inspiring proof that late-bloomers don't always get left behind.