James Solomon Benn
“The fellowship has kicked off my 'second act' in life. It has been a self-esteem builder and has given me the fire to continue my career as a performing artist into my senior years.”
James Solomon Benn ventured to San Francisco to expand his knowledge of all things cabaret. A friend recommended several cabaret venues worth exploring, such as the Society Cabaret room in the Rex Hotel and Feinstein’s at Hotel Nikko. Benn also secured tickets to one of the most prestigious cabaret rooms in the city: The Venetian Room in the Fairmont Hotel. There he witnessed the stunning performance “Ella Fitzgerald: A Centennial Celebration,” presented by Bay Area Cabaret. The show starred his beloved friend and cabaret singer Amanda King, along with famed R&B singer Freda Payne, Tony- award winning artist Lillias White, jazz chanteuse Sony Holland, and Janis Siegel of the Manhattan Transfer. One of his most thrilling experiences was singing at Martuni’s show bar. “To sing live at Martuni's in front of a discriminating San Francisco audience was a thrill,” he said. “The trip reminded me who I am—a talented artist who has achieved success, is worthy of recognition, and still has much to share with the community.”
From acquiring new sound equipment to scoping out the Golden Gate City’s cabaret scene, Benn’s fellowship allowed him to “keep moving forward” as an artist: “The fellowship has kicked off my ‘second act’ in life. It has been a self-esteem builder and has given me the fire to continue my career as a performing artist into my senior years. I feel I am now able to create my own opportunities.” One such opportunity is currently in the works: his own cabaret act that will pay tribute to the singers who have inspired him most— Jennifer Holliday, Eartha Kitt, and Ethel Waters, just to name a few. He expects to present this act in early 2019.