Southern Illinois Professor Edward Benyas Honored with Education Award

Sep 6, 2019

Carbondale, IL – WSIU Public Broadcasting, a service of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is pleased to announce Professor Edward Benyas, Founder, Artistic Director and Conductor of the Southern Illinois Music Festival, as the new Education Award recipient for WSIU’s One Region, All Neighbors initiative. The Good Neighbor Award is inspired by Fred Rogers and recognizes those who make a positive impact in the community.

The One Region, All Neighbors campaign promotes neighborliness as an important aspect of community involvement and public service. Winners are selected on neighborliness criteria that involve cognitive, emotional and social dimensions of being. WSIU seeks people who are making positive contributions to the quality of life in their region. Each month, WSIU recognizes an individual or group. Categories include individual, youth, education, business, and community group.

People love this music festival and that’s important to me. I know those people and I do it for them.

Benyas, who grew up in Michigan, picked up the oboe at age 10. At 16, he started putting ensembles together in his parents' livingroom. He went on to obtain a law degree and practiced as an attorney for five years before returning to Northwestern University to receive his Master of Music degree. He has served for 25 years as the Professor of Oboe & Conducting at SIU Carbondale, as well as the Music Director of the Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra. Benyas is also the Founder and Artistic Director of the Southern Illinois Music Festival.

These many musical and educational efforts have led to Benyas having a symbiotic relationship with his community. In addition to raising money for the orchestra, he is always looking to get community members involved in the orchestra itself. He has been known to spot somebody walking on the street, violin case in hand and approach them and ask them to come play. The end result is that the Orchestra is an amalgam of different people from throughout the community. Participants range from music faculty to non-music faculty, from music grad students to non-music undergrads; there are high school students and, even junior-high students and local community members, both professional and hobbyist, who make up the rich community tapestry of the Orchestra.

Credit SI Music Festival

Benyas started the Southern Illinois Music Festival in 2005, initially to be closer to his family instead of having to be away at other festivals around the country. Both his wife and his children currently play in the festival. During three weeks in the summer, Benyas brings in professionals from all over the country, exposing the community to stellar professionals. There is as much programming in the three weeks of the festival as in an entire season of the college orchestra.

“I love connecting with the community,” Benyas explains “I've become a real people person. I wasn’t always a people person growing up, but it's really important to me. I mean, now there's a stack of letters from people writing me, appreciating what we do with the music festival, saying how nice it is to have me and my family in this community. It's great. I get those letters all the time. People love this music festival and that’s important to me. I know those people and I do it for them. And you know, there are a certain number of students that like the symphony and that are moved by the symphony, but for the most part, the Orchestra really serves the community at large.”

Benyas also serves as the Music Director of the New Chicago Chamber Orchestra, has conducted professional orchestras and opera companies across the United States and in Europe and China, and was recognized as Conductor of the Year by the Illinois Council of Orchestras. He has performed as an oboist with the Chicago and Milwaukee Symphonies, Lyric Opera of Chicago, at several professional music festivals, and on tour with Andrea Bocelli.

Benyas will join other awardees at a special awards ceremony where each awardee will be recognized with a Good Neighbor Award for their outstanding contributions in their communities.

About One Region All Neighbors

WSIU’s One Region, All Neighbors campaign is inspired by the life and legacy of Fred Rogers. For more than thirty years, Fred Rogers reached into homes and hearts with his children’s public television program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred Rogers’ career demonstrated the power of kindness and transformed our understanding of childhood. His spirit lives on through the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media and Fred Rogers Productions.

Fred calls upon us to “Imagine what our real neighbors would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person. There have been so many stories about the lack of courtesy, the impatience of today's world, road rage and even restaurant rage. Sometimes, all it takes is one kind word to nourish another person. Think of the ripple effect that can be created when we nourish someone. One kind empathetic word has a wonderful way of turning into many.”

In honor of Fred Rogers’ vision, WSIU’s One Region, All Neighbors initiative encourages community members to nominate those who make positive contributions through acts of kindness, compassion, and service. Each month during 2019, winners are chosen from nominations submitted by the public in five categories: individual, youth, educator, community group, and business. WSIU recognizes these winners on our television and radio stations, the WSIU website and social media.

Nominate Your Neighbors

WSIU encourages the public to participate in the One Region, All Neighbors campaign by nominating neighbors online and sharing on social media using #WeAreAllNeighbors.

About WSIU Public Broadcasting

WSIU Public Broadcasting is licensed to the Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University and is an integral part of the College of Mass Communication & Media Arts on the Carbondale campus. The WSIU stations reach more than five million people across six states and beyond through five digital public television channels, three public radio stations, a radio information service, a website, and education and outreach services.

WSIU's mission is to improve the quality of life of the people they serve. WSIU stations partner with other community organizations to promote positive change and to support the academic and public service missions of Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Learn more and get the latest station news online at and on WSIU's Facebook and Twitter pages.

WSIU's programs and services are partially funded by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.