I’ve been UUCP’s music director since January of 2013. My job is to enable and supervise the musical life of the congregation, and I’m grateful to play that role in a community that so deeply values and supports music. I try to feature others when possible and not hog the spotlight myself, but also to step forward and provide leadership and support whenever I can help. I hadn’t ever set foot in a UU congregation before applying for this job, but speaking my thoughts in service has become such an anchor in my life that I’m beginning to identify as one of you.

Benjie Messer
Benjie performing with the Bad Cactus Brass Band

I grew up in Eugene, Oregon, and moved to western Massachusetts to attend college. My undergraduate “thesis” was to found a swing band, and those musicians and I went on to play funk shows throughout New England for many years under the name Inner Orchestra. During that time, I got a Masters in Music Education, moved to Boston, and spent four years teaching classroom music and choir at a small elementary school, while also playing trombone and sousaphone in various ensembles.

I moved to Phoenix in 2002 to be closer to my parents, who had moved here for work. In the ten years before I started working at UUCP, I did all sorts of musical jobs around town: creating backing tracks for Broadway karaoke CDs, helping to manage a royalty-free stock music website, scoring independent films, founding and leading the New-Orleans-style second line group Bad Cactus Brass Band, and teaching music courses at various colleges.

In 2020, I was honored to serve as Music Coordinator for the UUA’s first fully online General Assembly (GA) and to lead the first GA virtual choir. I also completed the UUA’s Music Leadership Credentialing Program that year. During the pandemic, I’ve led singers from many congregations in the Arizona UU Video Choir.

I’m often practicing music outside of work, but I also make time to catch up with family and friends, cook, study Spanish, practice co-counseling, and do crossword puzzles.