Peter Benoliel brought an intense interest in music with him when he entered Penn Charter, and he found an outlet for his passion here. Benoliel sang in the chorus and played violin in the orchestra, and he recalls advanced music courses taught by Charles T. Maclary.
Benoliel had a second opportunity to observe Penn Charter’s music program when he returned as an overseer in 1974. He found the program sadly diminished: no orchestra and lackluster student participation. During a decade on Overseers, Benoliel advocated to bring back the music.
“Music is not a frill; it is fundamental to a student’s education,” he said last month on the phone from his home near Philadelphia. “Music is fundamental to our spiritual being. Life without music is not life.”
Choral and instrumental music at Penn Charter are flourishing again. More than 240 students perform in 17 ensembles, and the Upper School Symphonic Band alone has almost 100 student players.
On the occasion of his 70th Penn Charter reunion, Benoliel visited PC to celebrate with his classmates — and for a surprise.
The band room in the Kurtz Center for the Performing Arts was unveiled to him as the Benoliel Band Room. Benoliel’s sons Jeffry OPC ’76 and Peter W. OPC ’81 made a gift to Penn Charter to name the space in their father’s honor.
“My father has given me quite a bit over my life,” Jeff Benoliel said, “and this was an opportunity to give back to him in a philanthropic way.”
The elder Benoliel set a philanthropic example. He has supported Penn Charter financially at every turn over the years and has established a bequest to the school.
A violinist who has played chamber music throughout the world, he chaired the boards of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association and Settlement Music School, and served on the boards of prestigious national and local music organizations. The Benoliel household was full of music, and the car radio tuned to classical. “On every Saturday car ride we listened to the opera broadcast, for better or worse,” Jeff recalled. “He is very passionate about music; to this day he must see three or four concerts a week.”
Retired now after a 40-year career at Quaker Chemical, the Benoliel remains passionate about music. “To this day he must see three or four concerts a week,” Jeff said.
As the brothers see it, the naming of the Benoliel Band Room is a marriage of two of their father’s passions: music and Penn Charter.
“I am deeply moved by the gesture on the part of my sons,” Benoliel said. “But the important thing is that music be at the core of what Penn Charter is doing with students.”