Jensen, a resident of Bountiful, plays at each of these facilities once each month, as well as the VA Hospital in Salt Lake and the Golden Years Center in Bountiful. In addition, he plays at numerous hospital bedsides, private residences, church activities, and funerals. Every Monday night for 10 years, Jensen played his accordion for the residents of the North Canyon Care Center.
Currently, this amounts to playing his accordion at a care facility three to four days each week.
He has played at venues as varied as the juvenile detention center in Farmington and Salt Lake’s “First Night” celebration.
“Wherever my music will help someone get through the day or get through the night, that is where I want to be,” said Jensen.
Jensen jokingly describes his accordion-playing genesis as a “punishment from my mother. After she gave birth to me she was hospitalized for two months” and as a way to get even, she had me begin accordion lessons when I was about
8 years old.
He stopped taking lessons “once I got bigger than my mom.” However, after serving an LDS mission to Austria and hearing some accomplished accordion players, he pulled his old accordion out and began playing again. He hasn’t stopped for the last 40 years.
Unlike many accordion players, Jensen plays show tunes, religious music, patriotic songs, classics from the 1930s and 1940s, and songs from a smattering of other artists such as the Beatles and John Denver.
Jensen begins every performance with “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” by Bing Crosby followed by Louis Armstrong’s “It’s Been A Long, Long Time” with the famous refrain of “Kiss me once and kiss me twice, then kiss me once again.”
At the VA Hospital Jensen states that he always plays “God Bless America” at least twice each visit.
Perhaps most amazing of all, Jensen has never learned how to read music. He plays everything by ear. Jensen reports, “If I can hear a song a couple of times, I can play it.” And he has memorized hundreds of songs this way. He states that he has rarely not been able to play a request by an audience member.
What are some of the most memorable experiences from his decades of playing for others? “I have had people wheeled in in wheelchairs who seem oblivious to their surroundings, and when I have played a love song from their youth, or a song they grew up with or got married to or have gone to war with, the tears stream down their faces. I have played for Alzheimer’s patients who do not know their name or where they are, but still know every word to the songs.”
Another favorite experience was playing “Amazing Grace” at an LDS sacrament meeting in Vernal and having the congregation spontaneously begin singing along.
Jensen is a frequent guest at funerals. As he visits with the residents of the various facilities, they will come to him with requests for him to play at their funerals as well as the specific music they would like him to perform.
In addition to his accordion ventures, Jensen wrote a song, “A Sacred Child Is Born,” which was performed by the Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus several years ago at their Christmas concert. He has also released a two-disc CD collection titled “A Joyful Noise” which is available for purchase at Bountiful Music.
When asked what he likes best about playing, Jensen responded, “Sometimes when I’m playing it’s as if the accordion has a spirit of its own and the music that comes out is greater than I can play.” Anyone who has been privileged to hear Jensen and his accordion know they are listening to his spirit as well.