Musical Director

Stephen Benavente

Born and educated in Newport of Spanish and Italian parents, Stephen started playing the clarinet at an early age.

He was the youngest student to play in the Newport Youth Orchestra and at thirteen, following success at the Bath Festival, he was invited to tour Germany with the Bath Youth Orchestra. During this time he studied clarinet with Frederick Johnson.

In 1966 he gained a place at the Welsh College of Music and Drama where he pursued a full time performance course studying clarinet with Frank Kelleher. Whilst there,  Stephen was the principal clarinettist with the National Youth Orchestra of Wales under Arthur Davison. He gave numerous solo and orchestral concerts, including two solo performances for national TV.

After leaving college he was appointed as a woodwind tutor for West Glamorgan. This allowed him to continuing his performing career with the Neath Symphony Orchestra as principal clarinettist and as a soloist.

After 30 years as head of Music and Performing Arts at Fairwater High school Stephen has widened his musical interests to include choral music and musical theatre. As a choral director he has worked with choirs of all types, ranging from small vocal ensembles to the 140 strong Gwent Festival Chorus which he formed in 1992. He was also Musical Director of the Gwent County Youth Choir for several years, during which time he regularly conducted at St David’s Hall, Hereford and Worcester Cathedral and the Madeleine in Paris.

Many of Stephen’s past pupils have progressed through specialist colleges and conservatoires to follow successful careers as performers, composers and professors in Britain and abroad. Several members of the Priory Singers are past pupils of Fairwater High.

As a conductor and chorus master Stephen has worked with major international musicians including Emma Kirkby, Gwyn Howell, Michael George, Bryn Terfel, Owain Arwel Hughes and Richard Armstrong.

In 1999, Stephen formed the Priory Singers with some friends and has been leading the choir successfully since then. Many of the original members are still associated with the choir.

Stephen has also had success as a composer, having completed several full-scale musicals, and most recently, a setting of the requiem mass, premiered by the Priory Singers in 2007.