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This post presents the fourth and final update from 2015 Artist in Residence Benje Daneman and his jazz suite on "Light" in the Bible.

While darkness surrounds us, we are commanded in Matthew 5:14-16: "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the sameway, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

John 1:1-11

Psalms 27:1

Psalms 119:105

Psalms 36:9

Psalms 43:3

Matthew 5:14-16

Psalms 18:28

Artist in Residence 2015: Benje Daneman


Benje Daneman


Curated by: 

Spark+Echo Arts


Image by Giorgio Trovato

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It’s amazing it’s been nearly a year since I began writing my jazz suite “Light in the Darkness”. Thanks to Spark & Echo Arts for this amazing opportunity to give me space and time to create something of what I am now seeing is of great personal importance. I’ve been brewing with the concept of this suite for years, but it was the commission entrusted upon me that helped me take the steps to create it. I now realize the timing was perfect … as I’ve found, these things often are.

My newest musical group, SearchParty, debuted the full suite on November 15th at Marble Collegiate Church Jazz Revelation Series. This came only a few days after the terrorist attacks in Paris that shook the world. It also awakened (or reminded) many people, including myself, of the darkness that lurks everyday all throughout the world that we are not told about in the media – Israel, Syria, Kenya, Colorado, California, our own backyard… the list goes on. It’s saddening and confusing on many levels. I found it as no coincidence that only two days later we were standing in front of an audience performing a piece based upon the concept of light, goodness and life for 45 minutes. I know from talking with many folks after the debut, they also found it timely and inspiring amidst the current state of affairs.

I’m not a fan of coincidence. I don’t think coincidences exist. I think that things coincide for reasons; reasons within our understanding and reasons well beyond our understanding. The fact that I spent all year digging into “Light” in scripture only makes sense that it be debutedduring one of the darkest weekends of our year. In the very least, it was a reminder to me as to what I should be standing for. While darkness surrounds us, we are commanded in Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the sameway, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

It is not coincidental that this scripture (Matthew 5:14-16) that was so meaningful at the moment of pure darkness was the inspiration to the finale of my suite. It was the message I wanted to send the listener away with weeks before I knew how dark the world would feel on November 15th. One, that I feel, encompasses the whole concept of the Gospel – YOU ARE THE LIGHT. You don’t have to be a Christian to agree with this… while it is a Christian philosophy, almost all world religions preach this in some sense. Even Atheist Stanley Kubrick says “Our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”

In the weeks to follow Paris and the debut of “Light in the Darkness”, we have been struck with continued pain, hatred and sadness in our world including the recent attacks in Colorado and California. These events just scratch the surface as to the darkness in our world, and seem to be acting as strong public reminders that change is needed.

“What is the answer?” We ask.

There is an unsettledness in our world at the moment – there isn’t necessarily an agreed upon answer, but there is rumblings of the need of change which is pretty united. I personally think it shows the ingrained goodness that is instilled in us all (check out Desmond Tutu’s Book “Made for Goodness”), but also shows the great need for change. As the Reverend Michael Jackson preaches “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make the change” (Man in the Mirror). Only you can choose to make a positive change, and it takes one person at a time. I sense a movement on the rise, but we all need to have the strength to make that change – and in my mind that comes through love, caring, understanding and kindness for ALL. Hate in response to hate is NOT the answer… as Mahatma Gandhi said “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” That has never been truer than today. And sadly, much of our world is very, very blind.

When approaching this recap I thought about all of the things that I could tell you about my suite: The recurring harmonic and melodic themes that I labeled as “The Light Theme,” the process I went through composing, developing and arranging the movements, the musical structure of the whole composition or even my future endeavors with the music. But those are details. They are important, but I think this post wasn’t meant for details – at least not musical or compositional details. Maybe a later post.

This post is meant to shine the “light” on the beauty and amazingness of timing. Probably the most amazing thing in this whole process was the timing – the timing of the commission to create the piece, the timing of my life in needing a reminder of who and what I stand for, the timing of the debut and even the timing of this specific update. It’s pretty amazing when you really look at it.

Timely… yes. Coincidental… no.

That’s my opinion.


“Darkness cannot drive out darkness;

Only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate;

Only love can do that.”

– Martin Luther King Jr. –


Below are the six movements of “Light in the Darkness” and the scripture that inspired each one:

Movement 1: “The Light”

John 1:1-5;14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Movement 2: “Lamps”

Psalm 119:105 – “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

Psalm 36:9 – “For with you is the fountain of life, in your light we see light.”

Psalm 18:28 – “You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.”

Psalm 27:1 – “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?”

Psalm 43:3 – “Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me. Let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.”

Movement 3: “Just A Little While Longer”

John 12:35-36: “Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.”

Movement 4: “Children of the Light”

Thessalonians 5:5-11: “You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

Movement 5: “(Our Fear of) Exposure”

John 3:19-21: “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

Movement 6: “You Are The Light”

Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Spark Notes

The Artist's Reflection

About Benje Daneman

A sought after musician for his personal approach, creative musicality and strong versatility, Daneman got his start professionally in 2007 on a national tour with with Doc Severinsen’s Big Band. Since then he has performed with the world renowned Jose Limon Dance Ensemble, recorded for the Grammy nominated album “Elevation” (HMI Big Band) and has appeared as both a leader and sideman at prestigious venues across the country including The Kennedy Center, Baryshnikov Arts Center, FONT (Festival of New Trumpet) Music Festival and The Iridium. As a composer/arranger, he has received commissions from the United States Air Force Band (in Europe), Dr. Steve Zegree, Spark and Echo Arts and Lutheran Music Missions.

His 2015 Artist in Residence for Spark and Echo Arts, is the catalyst for one of his newest projects called Search Party which approaches faith topics through original music, with a band including some of the top musicians on the jazz scene today, including Ike Sturm, Jon Cowherd, Jaimeo Brown and Ashley Daneman. Another new project of Daneman’s, Life Stories, calls upon his deep interest and history in musical storytelling by musically creating a personal and unique experience for the audience by aurally recreating true stories of people places and events. Daneman’s 2013 EP release Estelle’s Farewell Gift features all original compositions featuring Jeremy Siskind, Ashley Daneman and Andrew Rathbun and has been described as “Simple songs that open doors to complex reactions” (David Sumner, Bird Is The Worm).

A Teaching Artist for the New York Pops, Daneman is a passionate educator and has led clinics and workshops throughout the country at such institutions as McNally Smith College, Western Michigan University, Concordia University and for the Michigan State Band and Orchestra Association. He is also the co-director of the Jazz & Creative Institute (, which has a mission to inspire artistic development and cultivate creative entrepreneurship for all levels of creative musicians. Benje has attended and holds degrees from Western Michigan University, The Henry Mancini Institute (Los Angeles, CA), and Manhattan School of Music (New York, NY).

Benje lives in New York City with his wife, jazz singer-songwriter, Ashley Daneman and daughters, Rivi and Elise.

Benje Daneman

About the Artist

To Lay Down One's Life