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The year is 1980 and Howard Benson just graduated from Drexel University with a degree in materials engineering and a passion for music. "I always loved music and the music industry but I had no idea how to be successful in it, so I decided to pursue my second love - engineering," he said.

While at Drexel, Howard decided to take a year off and attend classes at the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts. Richard Woodring, then dean of Drexel’s College of Engineering, encouraged his decision.

Valuing his education, Howard returned to Drexel, finished his degree and then moved to L.A. "I spent four years working days as an aerospace engineer with an air research corporation and nights playing gigs in Hollywood," he said. "One day my father told me that, if I have a dream I should follow it. He didn’t want me to live with regret." With that, Howard left his job, plunged into the music industry and worked tirelessly for years to establish himself as a producer.

After struggling for 11 years without a hit record, Howard got his big break when he produced an album for the band P.O.D. which went gold, then platinum.

Fast-forward to 2008 and Howard is now one of the most successful producers around, selling more records than any other rock producer and acquiring three Grammy nominations for hits he’s produced for the bands Daughtry and Hoobastank.

Even though his degree is in materials engineering, Howard says his education provided him with the experiences and tools necessary to succeed in the music industry. He still uses what he learned as an engineer when producing in the studio. "Having a great education gives you a big advantage."

"The co-op program was tremendous," he continued. "It taught me how to be a real person in the real world. It taught me to understand life." Howard often flies in from L.A. and speaks to Drexel students. "He is extremely informative and the students reap great educational rewards from his visits," said Marcy Wagman, Esq., Program Director of the Music Industry Program in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design. "They’re consistently inspired by him."

Talk to Howard for just a few minutes and it’s hard not to be inspired. It’s almost as if he’s lived two lives – the brainy engineer and the successful record producer. "It seems I have," he agreed. "I’m blessed to have fully lived them both."

Now, as an alumnus, he continues to support the program. Howard hired Maria Papadakis ’08 in the spring of 2006 to fulfill her co-op with his record label. "I was lucky to have such a great mentor," Maria said. "Howard is such an incredible talent."

Text and images courtesy of Drexel University Magazine and the Office of Institutional Advancement
Read the full Spring 2008 issue online

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Last updated Tuesday, June 10, 2008