“Music is a moral law. It gives souls to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life and to everything,” Plato said.
When Wayne Jenson pushes his electronic organ into assisted living centers at both ends of the valley, he personifies Plato’s quote. When puts his hands on the keys of his Hammond SK2 organ and begins to play, it is a moving experience.
Jenson parked his pickup truck pulling a small, covered trailer to Birch Creek Assisted Living located in Smithfield one Friday. He opened his trailer and rolled out his organ mounted on a special bracket he made and pushed it into the lobby at the entrance of the building.
Jenson is a retired music teacher. He taught in Box Elder County at the junior high and high school levels.
The Utah State University graduate taught his students to prepare for a concert every six weeks, so that’s what he does. Now he is getting a taste of what could have happened to him if he were an entertainer.
“I try to find a venue to play a concert every month and a half like I did when I was teaching,” he said. “People seem to enjoy the music and sometimes I’ll sing and, so far, no one has minded.”
Jenson has a musically-trained voice.
As soon as he gets the organ in place and starts to play the residents start to trickle in and find a seat. The music isn’t loud, but it fills the entire building. His sheet music is stored on a computer tablet he sets up on his organ’s music stand.
He wasn’t sure what the draw was to organ music, but it seems to work well for the people at the assisted living centers he plays for.
“When I start to play, I really haven’t had anybody not interested,” he said. “People seem to enjoy the music and sometimes I’ll sing and so far, no one has minded that either.”
He plays a lot of inspirational hymns and people start humming or singing along. Then he changes tempo and begins to play show tunes or other music familiar to the crowd. The residents ask questions, make comments and interact with Jenson like they are old friends.
“I started doing this using a different organ; it was heavy and was hard on the carpet when I rolled it in,” Jenson said. “I looked for this organ everywhere and no one had it, so I found this one online and ordered it. It has four different sounds. It works good for me.”
Jenson grew up in a musical family: his parents were musicians and so were his siblings.
“We were raised in a family where our parents went through the Great Depression. We were taught that the one profession you can always find a job at is teaching,” he said. “My father said ‘you are all going to college and whatever you get your degree in you get a teaching certificate’.”
So, that is what they did.
“I’m just trying to keep my mind active. I’ve been busy my whole life,” he said. “In the past few years I’ve played the organ in assisted living centers in Tremonton, Providence and Logan.”
Jenson said a lot of the time music teachers hate music when they retire because of all the work associated with it.
“I enjoy music. It is frustrating, sometimes, but it is still fun,” he said. “I do it more for me than anyone else.”
When the organist is finished, he pushes his organ back out to the trailer, loads it up and takes it home to rest for a time until its time to perform again. He has an organ in his house he practices on.
Maria Sorenson, the receptionist at Birch Creek Assisted Living, said the residents love his music. She said it is unusual to have someone bring an organ and play it in most assisted living centers.
“He is a great guy and he loves doing it,” she said. “He takes requests and if he doesn’t know the music, he’ll learn it and play it the next time he comes.”
Jenson just wants people to enjoy what he does as much as him. So far, all indications are the people enjoy it, too.