“You can’t really talk about music education in Santa Barbara without talking about Ike Jenkins,” said Karl Hunter, and we couldn’t agree more. Alongside his Big Bad Voodoo Daddy bandmate Dirk Shumaker, Hunter is just one of the many (many, many) to have crossed the threshold of Jenkins’s classroom over the last four decades. “If it wasn’t for Ike, I never would have started playing music,” he said.
This Saturday, Hunter, Shumaker, and the rest of the Voodoo Daddy crew will headline a benefit concert for the La Cumbre Junior High School Performing Arts program at the school’s newly erected Performing Arts Center, which currently stands as the only public performance space on the Westside. Almost as importantly, though, the night is being billed as a tribute to Ike Jenkins, who this year celebrates 45 years of teaching music to the students of Santa Barbara.
Since coming to La Cumbre Junior High in 1971, Jenkins has taught classes, conducted big bands, and imparted his love of music to young instrumentalists throughout the 805. He taught La Cumbre, then Dos Pueblos and Santa Barbara high schools, and he currently serves as the musical director for the Monday Madness Big Band at SBCC. He’s also as invested as ever in the state of music education in our public schools.
While we can easily rattle off a long list of Jenkins’s accolades, we thought it best if you heard the word from those who witnessed the man in action. Below, Hunter and Shumaker reflect on the lifelong impact and friendship of Ike Jenkins.
“I graduated from Dos Pueblos in 1989, and I had Ike for my last three years there. When I started, I was playing clarinet. I was terrible, and I didn’t care. Ike came in [to teach] the second half of that first semester, and once I heard his band and saw how he taught, I really got interested in music. After a year, maybe a year and half, I knew that I wanted to be a professional musician. It was that quick.
“He respects his students. He really tries to figure out what they’re into and turn them on to things that they’ll like. He’s really into students being involved in what the music is. If they have ideas, he’s into it. 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. Every kid that was there was totally excited to be there and wanted to perform well for him because he’s like a friend. And he’s remained one of my best friends my whole life. He’s just an amazing person.” —Karl Hunter, sax and clarinet, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
“I was in junior high when I met Ike. It was 1978, and he was the music teacher at La Cumbre. I played trombone and was in the concert band and the jazz band, and he was the conductor. Coming from elementary school, where you just had one teacher, to La Cumbre, going into the 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.
“As a teacher, 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. The way he teaches, he really just speaks to young people. You want to learn from him. When I was younger, we all wanted to know what he was going to say. Some teachers you turn off, but 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.” —Dirk Shumaker, bass, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy headlines a benefit concert for the La Cumbre Junior High School Performing Arts program on Saturday, March 7, at 7:30 p.m. at the La Cumbre Junior High School Performing Arts Center (2255 Modoc Rd.). For tickets and info, call (805) 963-0761 or visit lobero.com.