Ike Jenkins, the beloved jazz teacher at Santa Barbara high schools and the leader of SBCC’s renowned Monday Madness Big Band, died this weekend. Jenkins’s influence on young musicians was legendary; his teaching style opened their ears to the genre and he concentrated on their interests. As a conductor and band director, Jenkins brought the best out of his students, working with them to form award-winning bands and choirs at La Cumbre Junior High School, Dos Pueblos High, and Santa Barbara High. They entered the schools competition circuit, earning superior ratings at and invitations to jazz festivals such as Monterey, Reno, and Montreux.
Sax and clarinet player Karl Hunter, of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, in 2015 recalled having Jenkins for band at Dos Pueblos: “I had Ike for my last three years [at Dos Pueblos]. When I started … I was terrible, and I didn’t care … once I heard his band and saw how he taught, I really got interested in music. … And we learned a lot not just about music; we learned about how to dress sharp and how to act professional and how to be courteous because he’s such a nice guy himself.”
Bandmate Dirk Shumaker (bass) said in the same interview: “I was in junior high when I met Ike. It was 1978, and … going into [La Cumbre’s] band room and having him as the director was just spectacular. He had posters up on the wall and a record player. We’d listen to music. It was just amazing. … he’d always encourage us to listen — to the performance, to what the artist was doing — whether it was jazz or pop or show tunes or classical or choral music. … Ike always had a way of really communicating with you. He really got under your skin and made you want to learn, which was awesome.”
Jenkins was a graduate of Dana College in both voice and instrumental music, and had done graduate work in several music programs. He got his musical start playing piano and singing in his father’s church, according to a short biography at the California Alliance for Jazz. La Cumbre Junior High in 1971 was the start of a Santa Barbara gig that included not only area schools but also conducting musicals at the Lobero Theatre, singing the part of Caiaphas in Jesus Christ Superstar, voicing Hector the Bear in Disney’s Country Bear Jamboree, and receiving numerous education awards.