Grant Bentley in the High Sierra. (Submitted photo)
By Eva Poole-Gilson
Did the melody for an original song ever sneak into your head? Did you wonder what to do with it? Did you manage to lure it out of your head and onto paper? Or did you wait too long and lose it for lack of know-how or self-confidence?
Perhaps Grant Bentley can help you resurrect that melody or discover a new one when he speaks at Cerro Coso College’s new Lecture Series: Artists, Scholars & Writers.
On Tuesday, May 3, from 6 – 8 p.m. you’ll find Bentley in Room 176 of Bishop’s campus, armed with guitar, his own strong tenor voice, original songs, a DVD making one of those into a multi-media celebration/artwork, plus a FREE packet of suggested rules, craft tips and references to spur your own songwriting, especially with guitar as partner to your creativity. “I hope to give people enough tools so that they can play with composition themselves, maybe find a melody, a verse, or a chorus—at least be led into an exploratory musical adventure,” he said.
Bentley is an interesting 21st century Renaissance man. He has a degree in Astronomy from U.C. Berkeley—with a minor in … Drama! He’s worked in business most of his career, and now manages a major corporation’s communication center/website for approximately 300 of its employees.
At age 10 he began playing guitar. He joined “garage bands” and sang in choruses during his following, formative years. By the time he began writing songs himself, he knew many of the songs by many of the greats: Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, and the work, too, of the more “psychedelic” creators like Janis Joplin and the Jefferson Airplane.
“About 1985 I collided with some life-changing events … I took a backpack trip on the west side of the High Sierra. I needed some kind of serenity … For three days I walked, alone, and the pace of that free walking in the wilderness gave me some calmness and contentment … and a sense of a beat. To me, the beat transmitted information … It was autumn. My reaction to the beat and the natural splendor gave me, too, a melody, a ‘color’—some words—and, finally, a song worth finishing, my first song, ‘Mountain Sweetness.’”
After that pivotal trip, Bentley wanted to learn more about the craft, and he began attending conferences, mainly sponsored by the Northern California Songwriters’ Association. “They brought in music publishers and other professionals in the field, and they offered open-mic competitions monthly in the Bay Area, with 20 or 30 songwriters/performers on stage each time,” he said. Bentley won “Best Song” through the Northern California Songwriters’ Association three times.
Since then, Bentley has produced three of his own original CD’s, the most recent being Livin’ on Dry Land, where all of the songs have been written since moving to Bishop in 2005. In the future, he intends to produce more performance art, combining original music and photos with energy derived from his experience in live theatre. Bentley is also well-known in Inyo and Mono counties as a fine actor, recently playing Professor Hill, the lead in Playhouse 395’s Music Man and the Inspector in Mammoth Lakes Repertory Theatre’s Dial M for Murder.
Bentley performs his music locally at the Thai Thai Restaurant in Bishop and at the Side Door in Mammoth Lakes. B.B.—that’s Before Bishop—he also sang and played in Santa Clara, Berkeley and San Francisco. “Don’t die with the music inside,” Bentley explained. “Express yourself. Your experience is valid and should be appreciated. Find out what you’re best at!”
Meet Grant Bentley on Tuesday, May 3, at Cerro Coso College’s Bishop campus, 6 – 8 p.m. Call 760.872.1565 or 760.872.5303 for more info. This is a free event, and the public is most cordially invited.
Visit www.grant.Bentley.com to learn more about Bentley.