Video of Wilma's 80th Birthday Celebration - Part 1

Video of Wilma's 80th Birthday Celebration - Part 2

St. George's website: stgeorgesnashville.org

 

March 8, 2009

Dear Family, Students, and Friends,

When asked to submit a biographical sketch, I thought for this particular occasion I would write a letter. Condensing 80 years into a few paragraphs is not an easy task.

Brought up with my two younger brothers in southcentral Illinois where my father was a Methodist minister we lived in a number of small towns. Until the age of 5 I begged constantly for a piano and finally that dream came true. My mother gave me beginning lessons until I begged for a REAL teacher and finally achieved that. Next, I desperately wanted to play on the church organ which was "off limits" to anyone except the organist. My mother would never think of breaking any rule, but I begged until we sneaked into the church frequently and I loved playing the organ. After moving to a new location I was free to play the organ any time and by the age of 12 was their regular organist receiving a salary of $1.00 a week. I was publicized at that time as the youngest organist in Methodism.

A nationally known organist came to town to play a recital and my parents asked him to hear me play. Since I was self-taught, he insisted I needed a REAL teacher and suggested Eastman School of Music trained Ruth Melville Bellatti at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, IL. So began the new direction of my life. When I was 12 she took me along with college students to hear famed French organist Marcel Dupré in Springfield, IL.

Afterward I announced to the group that I was going to have a career as a concert organist and church musician. Of course everyone laughed, but I really never strayed from that goal. She pointed me toward attending Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, and I completed Bachelor s and Master's degrees as well as the Performer's Certificate at that fine institution. Many years later I was presented an Honorary Doctorate from Piedmont College.

After Eastman days I went under the management of Colbert-LaBerge and so started a career of performance along with church music. I married and had two children, a boy and a girl, whom you will meet at the reception (along with the seven grandchildren and the 3 great-grandchildren)! When my children were older I had many wonderful opportunities to tour in Germany, France, England, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Poland, and Austria.

I was so fortunate to be asked to teach at Indiana University and received tenure there. As a result I have a legacy of many fine students around the country who are active in the profession. I decided to leave Indiana University to come to Nashville to teach at Scarritt Graduate School where I thought I could be more influential in helping students prepare for a career in church music. About that time I started at St. George's as an Interim Director and Organist (then meeting in what is now Hampton Hall). In many ways I was not at that time qualified for the job. Thankfully The Rev. Joe Pace who was the Associate Rector spent hours with me explaining the Church Year and helping me coordinate anthem texts with the Lectionary. (By coincidence there may be a possibility Joe will be here today.) I studied conducting with Dr. Sandra Willetts and later with Angela Tipps and Diction with Lucille David. So I made much improvement during the next few years. St. George's Choir developed to a level that we were chosen to sing at the National Convention of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) in Louisville, KY, in 1989. The following summer the choir along with parishioners did an extended tour in Europe singing in England, Belgium, and Germany, ending the tour by singing Sunday morning Mass at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris for 5,000 people. I played the afternoon organ recital.

I so appreciate the 19 blessed years I had at St. George's. At the close of 2000 it was necessary for me to resign because of illness. After two years in Assisted Living and another few years of recuperation and along with your prayers, I seem to be in quite good health. My career has spontaneously returned and I am doing recitals and organ masterclasses all over the country. Again I want to thank St. George's for being such an important part of my spiritual and musical life. And thank you all for coming to my 80th birthday celebration. My actual birthday is today, March 8th. How appropriate it is that it is on Sunday!

Fondly,
Wilma Jensen

". . . let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us . . . " Hebrews 12:1

Click here for the program from Wilma's 80th Birthday Celebration