Bio • Ben Brussell
"My experience in working with Ben was pure joy. I found him a great listener, a clear communicator, passionate, and a skilled musician/composer. He is a true collaborator. His questions and comments reveal a composer trying to better understand the character's emotional journey, in order to support the story and the director's vision."
Anita Bloom, Film Director
• • •
Ben Brussell is a native of San Francisco and he has been an active professional music producer, composer, band leader, vocalist, violinist, mandolinist, trumpeter, session player, concert performer, and teacher for over three decades; based in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Los Angeles, California. Ben is the founder of the world music ensembles Sirba and KLEZMANIA! and the classical string quartet Luna Nova Quartet. Ben is also the founder and creator of his live music contracting business, Benny Be Music Productions, which has booked his bands and ensembles for a variety of events for many years throughout the West Coast.
Ben’s musical background is in classical music where he has studied trumpet, violin, viola, piano, classical voice, composition, and mandolin. He studied violin and viola with the San Francisco Symphony’s Leonid Gesin and Daniel Kobialka and holds a Bachelor’s degree in viola performance and musicology from San Francisco State University. Ben is a graduate of the Master’s Level program in Screen Scoring at the University of Southern California. There, he studied with film composition legends Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith, David Raksin, Christopher Young, and Buddy Baker. He studied film orchestration and arranging with Will Schaefer, Joe Harnell, and conducting with Larry Blank. Ben had the honor of being the only classical mandolinist to be invited and perform during the San Francisco Symphony's chamber music festival, the "Serenade for Mandolin and Viola," by Giovanni Hoffman, with his mentor and friend, Leonid Gesin in Davis Symphony Hall.
Ben has had a long, mentoring partnership and friendship with Ursula Mamlok, of the Manhattan School of Music and studied classical mandolin with oud master John Bilezikjian in Los Angeles. More recently Ben also enjoys his musical friendships and coaching sessions on violin with Fred Lifsitz, a student himself of the famed Joseph Gingold, and violinist with the Alexander String Quartet and professor at SFSU; and conducting with Dr. Martin Seggelke.
Ben has also written original orchestrations for a variety of independent films and live concert formats. Most notably, he was commissioned to create an original orchestration for concert violinist, Frenec Illenyi, in a premiere performance with the Houston Symphony Orchestra of Ben's "Romanian Medley for Solo Violin and 100 Piece Orchestra." Also, Ben composed, conducted, and premiered his "Americana Hymns Medley," with 60 piece San Francisco State University Wind Ensemble.
He has served as musical director at Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon, California and musical director at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco. Ben has been acting lay cantor from 2008 to 2021 at Congregation Kol Hadash in Albany in the East Bay, and has collaborated as musical director, mandolinist, and vocalist with his house band for Cantor Roslyn Barak at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco for several years.
His focus as an instrumentalist has been to create a unique and powerful voice for the classical and ethnic mandolin and violin. Ben has also performed and toured with Modern Mandolin Quartet. Ben has played violin with the Berkeley Symphony, Winifred Baker Chorale Orchestra, Starlight Strings, and the Lamplighters Pit Orchestra. On mandolin he has played with the Berkeley Symphony, Mendocino Summer Music Festival & Bakersfield Symphony orchestras.
As a musician and producer, Ben seeks to surround himself with the finest of musicians, whose talent encompasses both a passionate and creative spirit. These synergistic elements are brought forth to engage the listener and delight the soul for truly exceptional live musical performance. Ben has always used the absolute best musicians for his various ensembles, projects, concerts, and recordings.
Ben’s love for the mandolin and violin has a deep family connection along with a prolific musical heritage. His grandfather, Max Gralnick, emigrated from Russia in the 1920’s and has performed on violin, viola and was “the call” for mandolin in Hollywood film sessions from the late 1920s through the early 1980s. His grandfather’s mandolin performance is featured in major Hollywood film classics such as “The Godfather I” and “The Godfather Part II” (Nina Rota), “Zorba the Greek" (Mikis Theodorakis), "Spartacus" (Alex North), “Dr. Zhivago” (Maurice Jarre), "Barefoot In The Park" (Neal Hefti), "Flight of The Phoenix" (Frank DeVol), "Cleopatra" (Alex North), "Hello Dolly" (Jerry Herman), "Jumbo" (Rodgers & Hart), "Patton" (Jerry Goldsmith), "Shane" (Victor Young), "Around the World in 80 Days" (Victor Young), to name just a few. He also played with Dean Martin with his signature mandolin solo in the recording of “That’s Amore.”
Ben has personally worked in Hollywood on mandolin with film composer Angelo Badalamenti on his score “The Last Don,” featured on all the solo mandolin parts. Also, Ben worked with David Robbins on his score for Dennis Quaid’s debut directorial feature film, "Everything That Rises. ”The American Federation of Musicians through Local 6 in San Francisco, and Local 47 in Los Angeles.