About this Artist
Born on an Air Force base in Biloxi, Mississippi, Mary Jenson is the 6th of 8 children. Her childhood as a military brat was a nomadic one, moving from Mississippi to California, Germany, Georgia, and then back again to California by the time she was 9 years old.
"There was no lack of music in our home. We always had a piano, even in base housing, and someone would always be tinkering on it. In my hyper-active toddler-hood I would climb onto the piano bench, often in the middle of the night, my chubby fingers reaching for the keys."
The family eventually moved from the Bay Area of Northern California to Las Vegas, Nevada when Mary was just a pre-teen. She spent the next 7 years in Las Vegas and studied music education at UNLV.
"Growing up, we were given a choice of activities. The thing is- we were only allowed one thing to focus on. I guess that was Mom's way of managing us- and her time. This concept gave me a sense that I had to be committed because it was the choice that I, myself, had made. And somehow that made me feel rather powerful. I got to choose! I took piano as a pre-teen and later, when I was about 16, I auditioned for the high school pop group. It took two annual auditions to get in, but once I was accepted, my parents decided that I should have voice lessons.
I look back at those opportunities and I am amazed that my parents could give me so much. Every single child in my family of 6 girls and 2 boys had the opportunity to study music or sports. Piano, voice, viola and clarinet were the various instruments studied and football, track and rugby were the sports played. "
As the vocal curriculum at UNLV was confined to classical music, Mary suspended her formal music education and returned to Northern California at 21 years of age. Jenson studied Broadcasting in San Francisco and began a brief career in radio up on the Mendocino coast of Northern California. As a radio disc jockey on the infamous Left Coast of California, Mary Jenson observed a completely different lifestyle than what she had experienced in her youth and the accompanying exposure to music very diverse and eclectic was powerful.
"What was really cool about KMFB was that I had free rein. I was my own program manager and played music that I personally found worthy; my play list was not dictated by major market requirements. That spoiled me and when I left that radio job; I really didn't pursue the career anymore and it was partly because I knew that I was never going to be able to duplicate that situation again."
Although Mary had been singing locally in Mendocino with a trio and the Big Band, she hadn't found her way. Music was frustrating her. She returned to the Bay Area, turning her back on both radio and music. She eventually landed in the wine country of the Napa Valley, got married, raised children and had a successful career in the financial industry.
"Sometimes I look back on the choices I've made and think that I should have tried harder and not given up so soon. But then I recall what someone asked me those many years ago after I had just sung a mournful jazz ballad. "How can you sing something like that? You haven't even lived yet!" They were, of course, referring to my age. I hadn't suffered through life just yet. I hadn't born the pain, carved the lines of laughter and tears on my face. And I hadn't yet made any sacrifices for anyone else. Being a mother and a wife, a friend... these things bring wisdom that comes from living, not from talent. I think Life has made me a better singer than I was in my youth."
Happily, Mary was able to leave her business career behind and begin to focus on music once again. Old dreams resurfaced and Mary began to study music and begin performing again. Attending Napa Valley College, Jazz Camp West and The Jazz School in Berkeley, Mary focused on bringing her voice back into shape and her musicianship skills up to snuff. 8 years later Mary has just released her second CD, Beyond, a jazz/world/pop fusion including 4 originals, 4 covers of contemporary pop songs and 3 jazz standards. Many of the songs are melodies still echoing from those few but powerful years spinning vinyl in the pygmy forest of Mendocino.
"The name of my CD is Beyond. In full length it explores the human dream state. Individually the songs are vibrant with energy and represent the many facets of humanity. The music is truly lovely and reflects a fusion of jazz with world elements.
My CD was produced and arranged by Frank Martin and has an excellent ensemble of musicians which include Grammy winning violinist Mads Tolling, guitarist José Neto, bassist Ralphe Armstrong, drummer Will Kennedy and percussionist Alex Acuña, (perhaps one of the most joyous people I have ever met!)"