(Viola): Benjamin von Gutzeit, one of only a handful of true jazz violists worldwide, was born in Bochum, Germany, into a musical family. His father is a well-known music pedagogue; his mother a pianist and two of his siblings are classical string players. He began his viola studies at the age of four, starting on a very small violin that was fitted with viola strings. He received instructions from his father until age twelve when he became the student of violist Emile Cantor of the Orpheus String Quartet.
Benni consecutively won the 1992 and 1994 German Youth Competition Jugend Musiziert, which led to a solo concert tour in Japan. At age fifteen, he developed a fascination for popular music and took up playing the electric bass in addition to viola. From 2001 to 2004 he studied at the Bruckner Conservatory in Linz, Austria, under the tutelage of jazz violinist Andreas Schreiber. In 2004 Benni moved to Holland to further his jazz studies at the Conservatory of Amsterdam with saxophonists Ferdinand Povel and Jasper Blom and guitarist Jesse van Ruller.
He became an active participant of the Dutch jazz scene and performed with numerous groups including: Elastic Jargon by Maurice Horsthuis and Starvinsky Orkestar by Martin Fondse. He was sought after at prominent concert venues and festivals such as the Bimhuis and the famed North Sea Jazz Festival. In 2010 he moved to New York City (supported by scholarships of the Dutch Fonds Podiumkunsten, the Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben and the Kogel&Schmidt Foundation) and became the first violist to earn a Master’s Degree from the Jazz department of the Manhattan School of Music. Benni has performed and recorded with many great musicians including jazz violinist Mark Feldman, electronic music virtuoso Matthew Herbert, cellist Ernst Reijseger, and Saxophonist Dave Liebman. vongutzeit.com