Jensen Guitar & Music Co. Celebrates 40 Years

Santa Barbara’s Beloved Music Store Plans for the Future

Chris Jensen
Paul Wellman

For Santa Barbarians of the musically inclined variety, few spots hold a more special place than Jensen Guitar & Music Co. Since opening its doors on De la Vina Street in 1973, the shop has expanded to do much more than simply sling merchandise — it’s become a place where kids and adults have learned and honed their music chops.

“Right now we’re into our fourth generation of students,” said owner Chris Jensen last week. “Over the years I have been here, a great-grandpa, and then grandpa, son, and child have all been to our store for lessons.”

This week, Jensen’s celebrates its 40th anniversary with a big night of music at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club, anchored by some of the store’s students, instructors, and longstanding patrons. Perhaps more importantly, though, the party will double as a rollout for a new nonprofit foundation that will help to preserve Jensen’s name and outreach programs after Jensen steps down from the storefront.

“I’ve officially been retired for five years,” Jensen laughed, “but I’m still down at the store every day. It really is the way I love to spend my time.”

And for good reason. Under his guidance, the shop has grown from a retail space into a hub for the Santa Barbara music community, offering guitar lessons, equipment repairs, and for a time even expanding to include a venue space — the now-defunct Jensen’s Mainstage. Over that time, the community around the store has grown larger and stronger, including everyone from former employee and pickup master Seymour Duncan to singer/songwriter Ben Harper to Notes for Notes president and Santa Barbara Bowl Education Outreach boardmember Rod Hare, who recalls frequenting Jensen’s as a young boy. “His mom used to drop him off when she went grocery shopping,” added Jensen. “And now, here we are, 35 years later.”

With Hare’s help, it’s Jensen’s hope that the store and its mission can keep going strong long after he leaves for good and expand its outreach efforts in the process. “Our approach the entire time has been a major focus on lessons; it was part and parcel of growing the store,” said Jensen. “We want to perpetuate that and keep our existing programs active but also develop an outreach plan so that we can help schools that don’t have music programs. We want to have an organized group of instructors that can go to these schools after hours and help students learn in small group situations.”

While the foundation is still in its early stages, Hare and Jensen say they’ve already found someone to spearhead the program. In addition, they plan to use the upcoming anniversary celebration as a way to start the fundraising efforts.

On Tuesday, December 3, at 7 p.m., SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) hosts a night in honor of Jensen Guitar & Music Co.’s 40th year, featuring live music from area acts Bruce Wood, Mac Talley Trip, Switchback, Trie Shakes, Ammunition, Cadillac Angels, The Usual Suspects, The Tearaways, and more, as well as a raffle and silent auction. And according to Jensen, it’s only the beginning: “It’s like Rod says: ‘We’ve had 40; let’s go for 40 more.’” For info, call (805) 687-4027 or visit


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