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Sophie Benn enjoys a multifaceted career as a musicologist, cellist, and educator. She has been hailed for her “brilliant technical prowess” (ClevelandClassical.com), and in 2019 was named one of moCa Cleveland’s New Agents, a group of 52 “experimenters, catalysts, and change-makers, who are pushing Cleveland forward right now.” She believes that good music should be available to everyone, and agrees with Richard Leppert that “whatever else music is ‘about,’ it is inevitably about the body.”
A tireless advocate for new music, she is a founding Co-Director of Cleveland Uncommon Sound Project (CUSP), a presenting organization for experimental contemporary musicians and sound artists. CUSP also spearheads Re:Sound, a four-day festival dedicated to avant-garde musical expression. In 2018, she served as one of the principal cellists of the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra in Switzerland and on tour. Sophie has played with numerous contemporary music groups, including Ars Futura and FiveOne Experimental Orchestra, and has premiered work in both the United States and Canada. She has worked with Joel Sachs, Miranda Cuckson, and Marc Ponthus, as well as members of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Alarm Will Sound, Yarn/Wire, and the Kronos Quartet.
Sophie is currently a PhD Candidate (ABD) in Musicology at Case Western Reserve University. She has been awarded a 2019 Eva L. Pancoast Memorial Fellowship for research at the Deutches Tanzarkiv Köln, and was a Spring 2019 Graduate Affiliate at the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities. In summer 2017, she served as a CWRU Fellow at the Library of Congress. She has presented at conferences for the Dance Studies Association, the American Musicological Society, the German Studies Association, the Society for American Music, the International Association of Music Librarians, and numerous graduate-level and regional conferences.
Her dissertation project examines a number of notational systems that recorded human gesture using music notation in France and Germany around 1900. She situates these systems as symptomatic of burgeoning modernist patterns of thought, and explores how they illuminate popular perceptions of music notation, questions of artistic representation, coloniality and resistance to globalization, links between music and the body, and interactions between sound, dance, and science.
Sophie is the principal cellist of the chamber orchestra CityMusic Cleveland, and has made concerto appearances with the ensemble. She also performs as a baroque cellist, having worked closely with Jaap ter Linden, Julie Andrijeski, and Debra Nagy, and appearing in masterclasses for Malcom Bilson and Paul O’Dette. Drawing on a childhood spent in the ballet studio, she has also performed as a baroque dancer in productions of Hippolyte et Aricie, Dido and Aeneas and Acis and Galatea.
Sophie lives in Tremont with her husband, the music writer and historian Nicholas Stevens, and a small but mighty cat, Thalia. In her spare time, she enjoys learning about photography and searching for the perfect dry white wine.