By Bob Balgemann


MACHESNEY PARK – Kevin Jensen was still in sync on his last morning as band director at Harlem High School.

He and his jazz band started the day at the monthly breakfast meeting of the Harlemites, a large group of Harlem graduates who gather the first Monday of the month at VFW Post 9759 in Loves Park.

“In about four hours I’ll be one of you,” he said of nearing the plateau in life known as retirement.

He didn’t take it easy during his last public appearance.

The jazz band includes saxophones, trumpets and trombones, plus one guitarist, one on the keyboard and one on the drums.

Jensen watched all of them intently, his body moving in response to the music and, of course, arms motioning to increase the intensity or tune it down a bit.

He walked dutifully to the side of the performance area whenever there was a solo, allowing that musician to be alone on center stage.

When it appeared the concert was over he asked his students, “One more or two?”

“Two” responded someone in the sizeable audience.

And so it was two.

One of those in attendance was his mother, Glenda Jensen, a member of the Class of 1948 at Harlem.

“I figure God has more plans for him,” she said of Kevin, a 1976 Harlem grad. He’s stepping aside at 57 years of age, after 35 years in education, 26 of them at Harlem.

“He has many years left to do more good,” Glenda Jensen said. “I’m very proud of him.”

No Farewell Tour

There were plenty of “lasts” for Kevin Jensen over the past year. A last football season with its halftime shows, last holiday performances, last basketball season during which his pep band made numerous appearances at home games, and one last Cabaret, the popular concert now being held the same night as Harlem Pride awards are handed out.

There was the June 1 “last” appearance before the Harlemites and, then, directing the band at a luncheon for retirees, this year including himself.

A busy “last” morning, which prompted him to occasionally check his wristwatch while at Post 9759. “We’ve got another gig, that’s all,” he said of the need to be punctual. And when the last tune was played, he stepped to one side and pointed to the band.

“Let’s hear it for the students,” who showed up to play, he said. “They’re on spring break.”

Harlemite Delores Hall, who schedules the organization’s programs, didn’t let Jensen get away without presenting him with a certificate, making him a Harlemite, and $100 check for the music department.

He said he couldn’t have been happier than to spend part of his last day, as an educator, with the Harlemites. And of the future, he said, “I’m not moving away or dying. I’m just retiring.”

Harlemites II copy photo


Bob Balgemann photo


Retiring Harlem High School Band Director Kevin Jensen (far right) acknowledges the jazz band after its performance June 1 before the Harlemites, a large group of Harlem graduates.


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