Meet the Maestro: Bob Jenkins

As he did with all his careers, Bob Jenkins “sort of fell into” teaching at IPR, which he says, is about the fourth or fifth career he’s had. Having worked as a trombone player, a contractor hiring orchestra musicians, a songwriter and a producer, Bob was “bored with retirement” and asked IPR co-founder Tom Tucker if there was anything he could do at the school.

“We’d worked together for 30 years—he was my engineer,” Bob said. “Tom always said I was the best musician he ever knew.”

Bob was hired the second quarter of IPR’s existence. To his surprise, he realized he didn’t care much for teaching at first.

“I discovered I was a better mentor,” Bob says. “A teacher says, ‘here is how you should do it;’ a mentor says, here is how I do it.’”

Although Bob says he eventually became more of a “teacher,” he still takes a mentoring approach to his classes. He believes in helping students learn in a way that is suited to each student’s needs and learning styles. He loves his job, he says, and loves being in an environment where people are always learning.

Likewise, students and faculty at IPR love Bob, too, not only for his ear for perfect pitch but also for being timelessly cool and inspiring. Bob is the “heart, soul and sometimes conscience” of IPR, instructor Scott Nelson says.

“He keeps on you to work harder, and then he gives you a hug,” says student Aaron Knish.

Perhaps Bob himself is such a great teacher because he had many great teachers as he was growing up. He credits his junior high school band teacher and high school band teacher for starting him down a path of musicianship—they were both “musician educators, not music educators,” he says. They were accomplished musicians teaching from that perspective rather than a by-the-book approach, a tradition Bob now carries on.

In college, Bob attended the University of Minnesota and later transferred to St. Thomas. He played in bands and multiple venues around the Twin Cities and very quickly started traveling out of state for gigs. Of course, he met up with fellow musicians to jam all the time. In fact, he recalls playing with other jazz musicians at Campus Pizza on the U of M west bank and telling “little Bobby Zimmerman” to take his guitar and leave for not being good enough.  (Of course, he admits, no one knew then that Zimmerman would later become Bob Dylan and revolutionize popular music.)

Bob himself has had a monumental music career, working in New York, Los Angeles, Stockholm and Copenhagen—yet he’s always returned to his hometown of Minneapolis. Looking back on his proudest moments, he cites the first time a piece of his music was used in a movie, the awards he’s won from the Cannes Film Festival and the CLIO Awards for music he wrote for advertising campaigns. But perhaps his biggest moment, he says, struck him as he was watching television at his sister’s house one Thanksgiving.

“I had just started writing music, and I had just written a commercial for Winnebago campers,” he says. “Then on Thanksgiving, we were at my sister’s house watching football, and on comes my commercial. And I remember sitting there thinking 50 million people are hearing my music right now.”

For students hoping for as successful a career in the music industry, Bob advises them to really consider whether they need to work in music or not. “This is not a job for someone who wants to play around,” he says. “It can be really disappointing if you aren’t serious. But if you really want to do it, you can probably be successful.”

“I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Bob says. “I’ve been so lucky being in the business my whole life. And being here at IPR, I get to pass along my experience and hopefully be beneficial to someone else.”

CLASSES: Bob teaches Audio Production for Visual Media; Scoring for Film and TV; and Arrangement and Orchestration

3 ARTISTS ON HIS IPOD: Actually, Bob doesn’t own an iPod. “I’m a terrestrial radio guy,” he says. His favorites include Beethoven and contemporary film score —“When you take a film score out of the movie and listen to the recording, it’s beautiful music,” he says. “The best classical music being written today.”

ADVICE TO STUDENTS: Life is too short to waste time trying to get stuff. Be receptive to what life brings. Graduate college.

WHAT HE LIKES ABOUT IPR: The faculty. “I know people in the business all over the place,” Bob says, “and we have a faculty that’s unrivaled.”

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