Many Keene State College students say post-graduate life is a scary, yet exciting concept. Earning a degree can open many doors to incredible career options, but sometimes it is not just the degree that can make dreams come true. For KSC alumnus Zach Benton, it took patience, practice and passion to pursue his now-blossoming music career.

Zach described how he grew up with a music-oriented home, including encouragement from his mother, who is a music teacher. However, he explained that his need to perform was not truly uncovered until after seeing the film “Back to the Future” (1985) as a child. Benton said he was inspired while watching actor Michael J. Fox jamming out on the guitar and singing the classic 1950s Chuck Berry song, “Johnny B. Goode.” From there, Benton said he practiced and practiced until taking the stage for his first live performance at a talent show when he was just 12 years old. He said, “I was not a popular kid, but I got a lot of applause that day.” Benton said he believes that the positive feedback he received from the performance gave him the encouragement to continue pursuing music through adolescence and even into college life as well.

Benton cited that his musical influences fall in a wide spectrum of classic rock ‘n’ roll and R&B/Soul. He said that he feels empowered by 50s icons such as The Beatles, Elvis, The Coasters, The Drifters and The Beach Boys. Benton stated that he also draws inspiration from Motown legends Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, as well as the funk from Sly and the Family Stone, Outkast and Prince. All of these musical superstars cumulate in Benton’s sound, which has earned him three top ten albums on the iTunes R&B/Soul charts.

Contributed Photo / Zach Benton

Contributed Photo / Zach Benton

“Variety is a key factor, because it would be boring if I just went out there and did the same thing all the time,” Benton explained, “It’s good to mix it up.” Benton said he thinks that this variety is apparent in the many live sets that he performs through the Keene area.

Downtown Keene restaurant Fritz, The Place to Eat, holds acoustic Thursday nights in which local artists can play to the relaxed crowd. These weekly events are emceed by Benton himself and he often takes to the stage as well.

“What’s great about performing live is that there is a risk factor of trying something new on an audience,” Benton stated, “When it turns out well there is such a great reward in that.” Benton also said that one of the benefits of trying out songs, especially new songs, is he can edit himself while on stage and then bring these adjustments to the studio recording sessions.

While in the studio Benton heads up all of the musical arrangements and instruments on his songs. Benton said he loves playing with the vocals and riffing on the guitar, but also holds his own on the drums and additional instruments. Benton said, “I’ve worked my tail off doing this,” and he explained that he believes he achieves this through working on all parts of his music. Benton’s advice to aspiring musicians is to practice. “Playing music is like driving a car or any other skill,” Benton said, “It takes time and practice to know that you’re getting it right.”

Currently, Benton is working on another album as well as garnering joy from being part of the Keene art scene, “I like being the big fish in a small pond right now, Keene is great. . . It’s a pretty damn good pond.” Benton said that following his dreams was important to who he is today and any other KSC alumnus can do the same with time and dedication.

Rebecca Costanzo can be contacted at

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