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Don Bennett leaves a legacy of a deep love of music

The prominent Kamloops musician and educator died suddenly in late August of an aortic dissection, a relatively uncommon heart condition.
Don Bennett
Teaching mostly at the high school level, Don Bennett made his mark on hundreds of Kamloops music students in his more than 35 years of educating students. He was also a prominent musician, playing in the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra for 26 years, in Beyond Brass (formerly the Kamloops Big Band) and in other orchestras, including the Vancouver Philharmonic, Orchestra Viva, Okanagan Symphony and Prince George Symphony.

Don Bennett, a prominent Kamloops musician and educator, has died.

Bennett died suddenly during the last weekend of August of an aortic dissection, a relatively uncommon condition in which the inner layer of the aorta, the large blood vessel branching off the heart, tears. He was 60.

Teaching mostly at the high school level, Bennett made his mark on hundreds of Kamloops music students in his more than 35 years in education.

He was also a prominent musician, playing in the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra for 26 years, in Beyond Brass (formerly the Kamloops Big Band) and in other orchestras, including the Vancouver Philharmonic, Orchestra Viva, Okanagan Symphony and Prince George Symphony.

Bennett was also a conductor for the Thompson Valley Orchestra and the Kamloops Community Band, where he shared his duties with fellow conductor Cliff Noakes.

Noakes said Bennett was the “definition of a gentleman” and always focused on his teaching.

“He will be so missed,” Noakes said, noting Bennett’s legacy will lie as much with his former students, many of whom have become professional musicians, as it does with the musicians he played with in Kamloops and beyond.

Anita Eccleston called Bennett a longtime family friend and colleague.

The two played together in the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra, among other ventures. She remembers Bennett as a good-humoured colleague and friend who always had a positive outlook.

“Don was kind of everywhere. I’ve got so many memories I can’t even sort through them,” she said.

One example Eccleston gave of Bennett’s generous nature was his instant willingness to lend his band room to Eccleston and a student of hers.

“We were training her up for a festival … She wasn’t even a student of his. For him, it wasn’t a big ask. It was natural for him to facilitate people’s musical growth,” Eccleston said. “You almost take it for granted that someone so generous was among us.”

Eccleston, who has been playing music professionally since she was 13, said Bennett’s mark is indelible for those who learned from him.

“When you have a teacher like that, you can’t get away from it. You adopt the love of the music the same way they do. It’s infectious,” she said.

Bennett leaves behind wife Sally Arai, son Caylen, sister Pam and brother David.

Arai, a clarinetist, met Bennett through the KSO in 1989. The two married three years later. Outside of his work in music, Arai said Bennett loved the outdoors, especially hiking, and the two often pursued that passion together.

“His musical family was important,” Arai said. “His own family was important. He loved them all.”