CNM Concert Season 41

David Gompper, Director
George Hufnagl, R. Asst.

CNM Concert II

 Concert Program 

 Program Notes 






Donald Martin Jenni

TRIBUTES     [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z  ]

Saturday, September 9, 2006

The Martin I knew loved life and children and good food and words as much or more than music. I was in awe of him when I first met him, in 1973. He was my husband Peter's teacher, mentor, friend first. I couldn't imagine how someone so brilliant would react to a naive, ordinary, nonmusician. Of course, he treated me like I was brilliant, too. He was easy to love, and I did.

I remember watching Monty Python's Flying Circus with him and laughing uproariously. He enjoyed my attempts on a student budget to create a palatable liver dish and was sent home with the leftovers. We often took care of his feline friends, Ralph, Kabuki, and later, Alma, offspring of our own cats. When we played him a cut from one of our favorite records by the Butterfield Blues Band, he began using the song in his class. Eventually, he became godfather to our first daughter. How honored I felt when he praised my simple lullaby hummed to a crying baby. "Uncle Martin" did not intimidate her: she climbed on his lap, played her toy piano for him, and loved to hear him read stories. He would often ad lib or translate into another language; she would delight in telling him he was wrong: "Stop being so silly!"

Eventually we moved away from Iowa City and then across the country. We looked forward to those unexpected phone calls that came every year or two that he was not far from Raleigh and would like to stop by. By then, we had four daughters. When one of his students was selling World Book encyclopedias (before there was Wikipedia!), he bought a set for our girls. He loved to share items from his travels: ethnic dolls, picture books, whistles, games, candles, or soap. He brought glimpses of different cultures and exotic places to our lives.

My family and I were blessed to be a part of Martin's life. I will never forget his wit, his laugh, his hugs. His spirit lives on in his music and in the hearts of those who loved him, in my heart forever.

Nancy Albrecht, Tamara, Jessica, Elena, and Johanna (

Friday, September 8, 2006

Martin's teaching often consisted of gently (or impatiently) restating the obvious (to a not so quick theory and composition student). The unspoken message was that music was both elegant play and honest labor at the same moment. Specific lessons come to mind; remember everything you hear, know whom you hire, self-sufficiency is a necessity, and leave paths in life open, even if you are unsure of the outcomes. The lessons had much broader application than I realized at the time.

More than anything, Martin's acceptance and friendship meant everything. He was a doting godfather to my oldest daughter, Tamara, and a loving "uncle" to her three sisters, Jessica, Elena and Johanna. For Nancy and I, he served as a wise and sympathetic friend as our daughters grew up. He knew instinctively that more than anything, raising a family required a sense of humor. All of us will miss him.

Peter Albrecht (

Thursday, July 6, 2006

"Unusual, unpretentious and possibly worth exploring" is how Classical Guitar Magazine (UK) reviewed Martin Jenni's Variazioni sopra Crux fidelis for solo guitar that he dedicated to me back in August 2002. In a letter, Martin described my instrument as, "intimate, expressive and subtle!" These are all phrases that come to mind as I will remember Martin.

My introduction to the music of D. Jenni (published name on score) was by the way of a graduate professor while I was a student in VA. This music (Music for Friends #2) was different from previous music I had studied for flute & guitar. It was unusual enough that I decided to locate D. Jenni and write a letter. A few weeks later I received a warm and friendly letter from D. Martin Jenni filling in the details of this composition and a friendship was born. His music was included in my final graduation recital and was a personal highlight for me and my partner. Several years later I became interested in "older music". I had landed my first teaching position on the college level in NJ and wanted to plan something unique for the faculty recital. I wrote Martin to request a work based on medieval themes and two weeks later we were eating Italian subs in the Philadelphia area discussing the commission (By the way he really enjoyed the sandwich). Thank you Martin for letting me into your world of peace and kindness.

Thomas Amoriello (
Guitar Faculty, Settlement Music School, Camden, NJ

Friday, July 14, 2006

Donald Martin Jenni taught a summer course on Tonal Music at Stanford University when I was a graduate student there in 1968. His teaching and piano playing were so memorable that I can never hear a Chopin Prelude or Brahms Intermezzo without thinking of what he said and how he played. Over the years I incorporated as much of his wisdom as I could into my own teaching, but I never achieved his gentle articulate precision or his dry, sly wit.

He was a remarkable musician; I was blessed to have known him.

Martin Bresnick (

Saturday, July 8, 2006

I rather suspect that most of the tributes and recollections will concentrate on Don's musical accomplishments. (By the way, I will probably refer to the deceased as "Don" for the better part of this letter. We met as incoming freshmen at DePaul University in Chicago back in 1954; at that time he still referred to himself as Don, long before he switched to Martin during his later years.) I was privileged, of course, to be a first-hand witness to his musical gifts, but in this letter I would like to say a few words about his astounding linguistic abilities. I am not overstating his gifts in this particular area when I suggest that he was able to absorb languages as effortlessly as a sponge picks up water. I'm certain that everyone who has ever had the good fortune to know him and work with him will unhesitatingly concur.

During our sophomore year, the two of us decided to look for an apartment, and we subsequently found a small boarding house on Chicago's near North side which seemed to fit both our needs and our limited budgets. The landlord and landlady were Hungarians and Don decided that it would be "fun" (his word) to learn the language. And so, picking up a grammar book and a couple of phrase manuals, he tackled the job to the point that a mere two weeks later he was jabbering with the landlady who refused to believe that he hadn't grown up with the language. In fact, one morning over breakfast, he informed me that he had dreamt that night in Hungarian.

During that time Don also amused himself by inventing his own languages. I distinctly remember one called Sansi, a mono-syllabic invention patterned after Chinese. He also devised an ideographic script for it, using Egyptian-like cartouches. (I remember my name came out as "da-san-u-wu-sao-zu", or "Gift of old Dragon's son.")

This also reminds me that he was also a master of calligraphy, and I remember receiving letters from him that were worthy of being framed and hung on a wall.

During these last five or six years when we began using e-mail to communicate with each other, I was continually asking for his help in solving various linguistic questions that arose, particularly in deciphering passages from classical Latin. In every instance, not only were his translations accurate, but they were rendered into elegant English as well.

There were times when he erroneously assumed that others shared his gift for languages. I remember when Antje and I were married in 1963, and I received a telegram in him that was rendered in cipher. It took me the better part of a week to decode it, only to discover that the original message was in Hungarian! I was flattered that he had assumed I could make it sense out of that cryptic message, but I had to remind him that not all of us are linguistic savants.

I won't comment on our long-standing friendship which touches on deep personal feelings that I find hard to express, except to say that, like all of us who were fortunate enough to have had the privilege of knowing him. I miss him terribly.

Donald Draganski (
2113 Forestview Rd., Evanston, IL 60201-2007, Tel: 847 475-7073

Monday, September 11, 2006

Martin met me at the airport during the spring of 1991 for my job interview at the University of Iowa. I asked him if he hailed from England, since he introduced himself with an accent that from my own experience placed him midway between the two continents. "No, from Milwaukee," he answered. Thus began a wonderfully supportive relationship that spanned a brief 15 years as senior and junior colleagues. We shared a common link with Humphrey Searle, whom he had known in Stanford just 15 years before I had Humphrey as a composition teacher at the RCM.

I found Martin's tastes refreshingly ecumenical. By then, not only was he travelling to India but quite often to Africa (yet another connection with sub-Saharan countries), returning with stories as well as musical materials and ideas for formal constructs. I went often with him to New Melleray Abbey, sharing his love of chant and liturgy - of course, he was the expert against my rather unfocused and sloppy attention to such details. His sendoff "roast" at the JenniFest in 1999, together with slide show and a Festschrift concert, was fun to assemble, but then I sorely missed his presence and critical support during the few short years after his retirement. We were able to reconnect on the CNM tour to Moscow, where his Cucumber Music was performed at the Moscow Conservatory, and where we all stayed in the less than elegant Conservatory apartments that were originally the Tsar's horse stables.

My final visit with him was a 2-day trip to New Orleans three weeks before his passing, at times, to my surprise, finding myself as a kind of father confessor, but witnessing in awe his quick wit and memory. We listened to recordings of his compositions, especially his favorite bits, as I sat on the floor and watched him describe in detail the background of each text or musical importance. Among other facets of my loss, I will miss in Martin an intimate connection to music that it seems only composers share, and the freedom to be critical without taking offense.

David Gompper (

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I'll never forget my first meeting with Martin Jenni. I had just arrived at Iowa to start a Masters degree in composition. I'd applied specifically to study with him. When I knocked on his door to introduce myself, it opened a crack and Martin peered out. "I'm Jon Hallstrom," I said. "So?" he replied, and shut the door in my face. Things did improve, thankfully, and I was lucky enough to spend the next 4 years as his student. Martin was my mentor, my supporter, and ultimately my friend. I literally owe my career to him.

Testaments to Martin's many and varied accomplishments will, I imagine, abound, so I'd like to offer a few personal remembrances. As I think pretty much everyone who knew him would agree, Martin was, well, a quirky guy, and anecdotes abound, like the time I invited him to dinner and asked him to bring a bottle of wine. He arrived with a copy of the Liber Usualis. "I'm better at choosing chants than I am at choosing wine" was his reply. (I still have that copy of the Liber and use it for sight singing with my own students.) Or the time he left a copy of the New York Times crossword puzzle on his desk and we discovered that he'd done parts of it in 3 languages (and made it work!)

I last saw Martin in 2002 when I was in Iowa City for the SEAMUS conference. He came to hear my performance and over the next couple of days seemed uncharacteristically anxious to spend time with me. He must have known about the cancer at that point. I think that in his typical roundabout way he was saying goodbye. I'll miss him.

Jon Hallstrom, PhD , '80 (

Friday, July 28, 2006

The following is an excerpt -- read the whole tribute .

Two weeks ago I received a sad email, telling me that the composer Donald Martin Jenni had died, from a long and painful cancer. My first thought was that I was sorry I had not kept in closer contact, my second was that I was surprised to read in his obituary that he had ended up in New Orleans, with a new life and an adopted family. His life had changed so much since I had known him. I had been a masters student of Martin's from 1978 to 1980 at the University of Iowa, and although we had stayed in touch after I left Iowa--we would send each other music and he would come visit whenever he was in New York--the second that he retired he vanished. I lost track of where he was. For a while I had an email address that worked and we would write each other from time to time. Then one day the emails became undeliverable, and I never heard from him again.

Jenni was always something of a man of mystery. I could never figure out where he was really from, and when pressed he would tell amazing stories of traveling in Morocco or Eastern Europe or India. He had a strange and vaguely unrecognizable accent, the result of the backgrounds of his immigrant parents and a lifetime of speaking other languages. Even his name was mysterious--at Stanford when I had met him he was called Donald Jenni, with the accent on the "Jen." The next year when I went to Iowa everyone called him Martin Jenni, with the accent on the "ni." It seemed that people knew him differently in different worlds and places. It also seemed that changing his location was a part of changing himself.

I met him in 1976, when I was an undergraduate at Stanford University. I had already heard about him from my former and future teacher Martin Bresnick, so when he came to Stanford as a semester leave replacement I wanted to get to know him. At Stanford, Jenni taught a seminar called French Music. It began with Charlemagne and ended with Boulez. Each week we would look in depth at one piece or composer: the Messe de Notre Dame, La Mer, Leonin's Magnus Liber, the Berlioz Requiem, Solage, Faure, Messiaen. I was a snotty undergraduate and had no interest in this music, I thought, and I went into this class with great reservation, really only because Bresnick had essentially ordered me to. Nothing in my education had prepared me to enjoy a class so much.

The level of erudition was something I had never experienced before. Jenni's deep knowledge of the music and the history behind the music was mindblowingly persuasive. Most of all, his ability to subject even the most seemingly obvious musical materials to a laser-like microscopic analysis was miraculous. It was by far the best course I had as an undergraduate.

David Lang (

Saturday, September 9, 2006

I was privileged to know Donald Jenni when I first went to DePaul University. I have to agree with everyone who ever knew him in the least, (and I am sure no one ever really knew him completely.) that he was one of the most amazing, talented and gifted humans ever to walk the earth. I am including Mozart, and anyone else you might want to debate me about.

We all know his musical abilities. They were without equal. His wit and thirst for life are legendary. We are all aware of his linguistic prowess.

I only took two semesters of orchestration with him as a student, but I spent many an hour with him as a friend. Here is a true story of a conversation we had. One day I was complaining about having to do an orchestration in the style of Mendelssohn. I thought it was boring. Donald said to me, "someday you are going to have to score a film in that style, and you had better know how." I never said anything about film scoring to him. So I think you can add seer to his list of talents.

I do not know what made me find him on this day, but I can tell you that I mourn his passing, and I so deeply regret that I never thanked him enough for his mentoring, friendship and for sharing his joy of music with me.

Rest in Peace, Donald. Thank You.

Harry Manfredini, film composer (

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Since I was fortunate to be Donald's teacher (he was named Donald by his parents) from age nine in 1947 to thirteen, I watched this tremendously talented boy leap in strides toward the musical giant he became even in his early years. I say watched, because I considered myself more a monitor of his learning than a teacher in the traditional sense. After studying piano with Mrs. Olive Gillard, Donald enrolled as a piano student in the pre-collegiate department of Alverno College. At the first lesson, it became clear that his interest was more in composing than in reproducing already composed music. He played for me an original waltz that had surprisingly good organization. As the semester wore on, I began to realize that he needed an extra lesson in theory to further his understanding of harmony, counterpoint, form and other aspects of composition - lesson two! At this lesson he would notate a two or three part contrapuntal exercise as fast as I played it.

In following semesters, Donald asked to take organ lessons so he could play in his church. He would walk to the college each morning and practice on a pipe organ before he went to school. - lesson three! When he was in high school he expanded his playing knowledge of several other instruments as they were need in the orchestra. While studying with me, Donald sometimes created not only the music, but the titles as well, such as "Jiggagaroo" and Skgzl". Once when he was offered a dime to get a bite to eat, he refused. The donor said that if he didn't take it, the dime would cry. Fifteen minutes later there was a piece of music entitled "The Crying Dime" slipped under my door. You could never predict anything about Donald!

After Donald completed the eighth grade, Sister Theophane Hytrek, who was studying composition with Dr. Leon Stein at De Paul University, obtained for him a scholarship for a weekly lesson with Dr. Stein as well as for piano lessons at DePaul.

His first published composition was a bi-tonal piano work in the keys of C and Db, "Midnight Promenade", which was a prize winner for a contest in the Etude magazine. As a reward, the magazine published it in one of its issues. In his last semester with me, I gave him the Heacox orchestration book, which he returned the next week saying he had read all of it. His prize-winning "Fantasie for Orchestra", written for our chamber orchestra, showed that he definitely understood the concepts of good orchestration. He copied all the parts and critiques a live rehearsal of the composition. At this time, Donald had reached the ripe old age of thirteen!

While he was pursuing his music career, Sister Janet Shurr, teacher of freshman music literature at Alverno, assigned each student the task of writing to a composer asking to describe his/her style of composition. After Donald had responded intelligently, we asked him to come to Alverno to speak to the students, which was enlightening to the students and faculty. Later when he was studying at Stanford University, he came to Alverno again to discuss his more mature chamber music with an advanced theory class.

Donald was the closest I have ever come to a genius. He was gifted with a fabulous ear and a photographic memory. That is why he could learn and speak so many languages. In high school he wrote me a letter in Latin, which I had to get translated! All of his letters were works of art with beautiful script. I treasure all of them.

Above and beyond his mental, artistic and musical gifts, Donald had a wonderfully integrated personality. He never flaunted his abilities, but always remained a simple person with a delightful sense of humor. He was deeply religious and very devoted to the Catholic faith which he embraced when he was in college. After he was baptized as Martin, he spent some time in the Trappist Monastery in Gethsemane, Kentucky, and late in other monasteries. As I recently reviewed his works, it was clear to me that he was deeply immersed in the music and liturgy of the early church. He kept in contact with me through the years, except the last year or so. I could not communicate with him because I did not know his whereabouts. My last meeting with him was 1999, the summer he retired from teaching, when I met his African "son" Sulayman. The memory of Donald has been burned into my mind and heart forever, and I am sure that whoever knew him joins me in mourning his passing.


Down the years

of your journey, Donald,

you ran joyously

without skipping a beat,

reveling in the

gifts of caelo et terra,

discerning numeros sonos

not heard by many.

Keen of mind

with artist's heart,

you returned the talents

of your Creator,

singing paeans of praise,

speaking in many tongues,

sharing your exuberant spirit

with those of us slower in pace.


Rest quietly now,

guileless one,

in God's embrace,

knowing all is well.

Aman, Heiwa, Mir, Nagaas,

Pace, Paix, Paz, Salaam,

Shanti, Sidi, Sipala, Peace!

Sister Agnes Meysenburg (formerly Sister Sylvestra) (

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I met Martin Jenni during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival of 2003. Midway through the two-week festival, Martin popped into the bookshop where I work. He overheard me grousing about the book tent that we run at the Fairgrounds; Martin asked what I needed help with. I told him I needed volunteers to staff the tent. He signed up for two shifts on the spot.

I got to know Martin that weekend, but not that well. He kept his cards close. He dropped a few hints about Iowa, about a monastery in New Mexico, about West Africa and East India, about Wisconsin. Martin was, as I was to discover, just being typically vague.

Martin kept his Jazz Fest wanderings centered around two stages: the Fais-Do-Do Stage, which showcased zydeco and cajun music, and the Gospel Tent. My attempts to coerce him into visiting other stages, with more mainstream performances, were usually met with a dry chuckle.

Over the next year Martin became a regular dinner companion. He enjoyed sampling the many restaurants and cuisines in New Orleans, which to most of us here is a full time job. Martin indulged me while I drank beer and blathered on about whatever.

Jazz Fest 2004, the first anniversary of our friendship, was when Martin discovered he was sick. He still volunteered to work some shifts in the Book Tent, and adamantly spent time at the usual stages. You could see he was in pain, but he wasn't about to let it ruin a good time.

He and I caught the Red Stick Ramblers at the Fais-Do-Do Stage. Martin raved about them as if they'd invented the wheel. On Sunday, he and my colleague Deb shared an afternoon in the Gospel Tent, Martin singing along with the Latin.

The summer and fall of 2004 were rocky for him, but we continued to make our rounds of the city's restaurants and dives. He appeared to rebound nicely as we rolled into 2005.

Next Jazz Fest, Martin again gamely volunteered for shifts in the Book Tent, to which I obliged, but I wouldn't let him do any real work. He was in considerable pain, but his mood was bright.

The first Friday of the 2005 Fest, Martin wandered over to the Gospel Tent to hear Betty Winn and One-A-Chord. He returned an hour later weeping and laughing. Of course, every time I saw Martin, even towards the end, he seemed to be laughing.

I think Martin made each day of the Fest that year, whether he was in the Book Tent or not. On the final day, I whisked Martin away for a tour of the other stages he'd steadfastly avoided the previous years. I took him backstage to see a British reggae band, Steel Pulse, and Martin got thrown out. I asked him what happened, and he wasn't sure, but boy, was I impressed. Martin Jenni, tossed out by a reggae band.

We caught the end of a set by a local jam band, and I was surprised that Martin liked it. At the end of the afternoon, we caught the Neville Brothers, and Aaron Neville singing "Amazing Grace."

Martin didn't make it out to the first Post-Katrina Jazz Fest, yet the 2005 Jazz Fest wasn't his last New Orleans festival. The 2006 French Quarter Festival was held on the Mississippi River levee on a sunny weekend in April. Saturday afternoon I wandered over to the main stage to catch a funk band, and there, sitting in a chair with a blanket over his head to keep out the sun, was Martin.

I was doubly surprised. He was so uncomfortable at this stage that leaving the house was extremely difficult. How'd he make it here? And why on earth was he listening to a funk band?

"Martin," I asked, "what the hell are you doing here?"

Martin raised the blanket and looked at me as if I'd grown an extra head. "Why, my dear boy," he chuckled, "it's the French Quarter Festival."

Ted O'Brien (
New Orleans, LA

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Upon reading of Martin's passing this evening (July 11), I was greatly saddened. He was a very important and wonderful supporter of mine through my studies at Iowa, and I will be forever grateful for the open-minded, wonderful way that he taught. I find myself drawing regularly upon his teaching methods, and I know that I would not have close to the degree of success that I have had as a musician without his support and tutelage.

Dr. Jenni, I wish I could have said goodbye. I love, and miss you. My sincere condolences to his loved ones.

Dr. Tim O'Dell (
Brunswick, ME

Friday, August 11, 2006

Martin's "Verbum supernum" is indicated to be played allegro estatico. Much like his mind - quick and fascinating. I can still see Martin tripping the light fantastic across St. Charles Avenue, arms blithely flapping bird-like, as if demonstrating the art of levitation gleaned from the tutelage of Hindu guru.

To know Martin was to become acquainted with the Metaphysical.

To converse with him one might feel precariously perched at the threshold of two worlds where all was preordained, devoid of the merely accidental and always magical; it was here Martin could be found in his element, expressing familiarity with Urdu, Classical and Medieval languages, oriental calligraphy, exuding an intimate acquaintance with an expansive holistic body of arcane wisdom.

I remember Martin appearing at Trinity Church New Orleans during a rehearsal of my Yellowdog Prophet Choir. We were preparing for a Moses Hogan memorial concert including several of my original songs. I was happy to see Martin embrace this music by joyfully dancing and singing with feeling and swing. This was several years or so before his death.

Though doggedly pursuing yoga at the time, he found time to do the Moses Hogan concert with us, which was held in a largely black populated neighborhood. I could see during the concert, in which gospel groups and jazz musicians performed, together with Ellis Marsalis being present, that Professor Jenni was totally absorbed in black culture, aware of its ramifications, influences, depth, immediacy and beauty. This was the first of a series of concerts with Martin.

Martin became a good friend and a regular at Trinity Church New Orleans. He played preludes for church services, performed for our Trinity Artist Series, and for our festivals, such as the annual 29-hour Bach Around the Clock.

Martin lived just around the block in a very nice, fairly new doorman-type condo. It had a fabulous view of delightfully seedy establishment, which must have offered Martin some amusement. I visited Martin there, and shared a glass of wine on occasion.

Though Martin was quick to embrace and support unusual, new and off the beaten track kinds of things, I noticed that he also could be surprisingly conservative. He could not tolerate, for example, the idea of Mozart being played on the harpsichord; whereas I could just as well hear it on the banjo. He, nonetheless, often stopped by to visit my wife and me in my well-lit office as his health allowed.

My wife, Manon, Martin's French confidante, recalls the day when Martin presented me with his organ piece, Verbum Supernum, and with Cheshire cat smile and branded charm importuned that I play it. Manon chides me on how ungracious I behaved, tossing the music aside and promising to play it later. I remember Martin asking then and again later, when that would be. Well, it appears to be now, regrettably late. It is a marvelous piece: joyful, robust, thoughtful and pitch perfect. I am deeply moved to play it for the D. Martin Jenni Memorial Concert.

Albinas Prizgintas (
Director of Music Ministries, Trinity Church, New Orleans, LA

Monday, August 7, 2006

My first contact with Martin was on the phone in 1990 when I was applying to doctoral programs. Martin made me feel welcome; because of him, I came to Iowa. So, in August of my first semester, I got involved with his chant group. I was amazed at his ability to bring to life this ancient notation. By November, the sound of chant had found its way into my music .

I sometimes found Martin's abilities--like his phenomenal skill at languages--difficult to believe. During a lesson my first semester, I brought in the piece I was working on. He looked it over with what seemed like boredom. He was going though the motions and really wanted to be somewhere else. In less than a minute he had finished with my 12 pages. Then he asked me, "What's the connection with the second theme to the rest? It sounds like 'We're in the money'." I was shocked that he figured out that I even had a second theme. And he knew what it sounded like! His speed at assessing music, even from a pencil sketch, stunned me. He went on to make other observations of my piece that revealed that he had no difficulty quickly taking it all in. Perhaps, my music wasn't even challenging!

Martin made the Friday afternoon Composition Seminar memorable, if controversial. The composition students were a diverse lot, and the conversation often wandered off the topic. But Martin would always steer us back, eloquently reminding us of significant historical events and people who contributed to the topic under discussion. He had a way of cutting through the malarkey, of abruptly turning us away from the tangents of our undisciplined minds. Martin made seminar feel like graduate school.

There are also many stories of Martin's awkwardness in social situations, his insensitivity to students, and his moodiness during lessons, some of which are no doubt true, but all of which merely make him human. I think we sometimes expect that men or women of extraordinary ability should exhibit that same high level in all areas of their life. But this rarely happens. When I knew Martin in the 90's, he seemed to have come to a point where he felt he had nothing to hide, and with breathtaking candor, he would tell, when asked, about his attempts to get married and have children and how they failed. I heard him argue with his seventy-five-year-old mother. I saw him get livid because a student had tacked an insult on his bulletin board.

Although I witnessed some of Martin's shortcomings, I always found him helpful and supportive when I needed him to be. He gave me the guidance that helped me take the next step. After Iowa, his guidance took on a broader, spiritual tone. Still, he was careful to point out that there were certain subjects--like relationships with women--where he couldn't advise me, but only wish me luck. I'll always be grateful for that.

Martin, you will be missed.

John C. Ross (

Friday, July 28, 2006

What can we say about a man that has given everything and expected nothing in return. He has touched several lives for the better including that of ours. We are blessed to have experienced so many wonderful things with Dad in such a short period of time. It was truly an honor for us to have taken care of him in his final days. We wish we would have had more time together, but are happy to have all of our memories of life together. Our goal for the future is to make sure that his name continues to bring joy and enlightenment in people's lives. We miss him more than words can explain.

Sulayman and Aleshia Sambou (

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I studied with Jenni in 1997-98 when I was at Iowa. I've never studied under a person that had such a command of his subject and a most elegant way of communicating his knowledge to his students. Both the time I spent with him in class and one-on-one, I was struck by the depth of his knowledge and his character. When I heard of his passing, those memories immediately came to mind; of hammering out counterpoint exercises at the piano, emailing each other in Latin, and just experiencing what it is like to come as personally close to genius as I think ever will. The way he thought of and taught music as language made a profound impact on me. He will be missed.

Ryan Sheeler (
Ames, IA

Sunday, July 2, 2006

It is always difficult to find the right words to say at times like this.

I first met Martin in April of 2003 when he came to a concert of mine at Trinity Episcopal Church in New Orleans, Louisiana. Life took a turn, and we met again in March 2004 after another performance, after which Martin and I began our friendship.

It was incredibly inspirational to watch Martin during the last two years of his life as he drove back and forth between Houston and New Orleans, taking cancer treatments in Houston and then taking care of arrangements for Sulayman and Aleisha in New Orleans. While I am deeply saddened that I was not able to spend time with Martin after Hurricane Katrina, I do feel and will continue to feel blessed not only for knowing him but also for giving insightful, inspiring, and sometimes "no holds barred" advice.

Samuel Thompson (
Soloist and substitute with San Antonio Symphony

Monday, July 10, 2006

Friend, challenger, benefactor, father, monk, gadfly, medievalist, juggler with language, world traveler, seeker, teller of stories and keeper of secrets---- Let no one say, "I knew him well."

una relictarum

Sunday, September 3, 2006

For me, Martin was a teacher, mentor, inspiration, and friend. What I recall most from my days as a graduate student studying with Martin, however, was the exceptional interest he took in each of his students, and the manner in which he freely and generously shared his life with others. This lesson--one of disposition more than composition--is what I think I gained most from studying with him.

Curt Veeneman (

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Prof. Jenni was a wonderful teacher! He made Music Theory fun and I learned so much from him. He was always very helpful. He had such a talent not only in composing but in teaching. I was sorry to hear about his passing. He will be missed.

Angie (Odem) Wyrick (B.M. 94) (Angie

Sunday, August 20, 2006

In the aspects of this life in which I knew Martin Jenni, he was a brilliant man and a kind man. I was a graduate student under his care from January 1990 to December 1999, and under his watchful ear and his caring pen I was able to earn both master's and doctorate in music. Martin taught by example: to learn Gregorian chant, we sang it; to learn Baroque keyboard styles, we listened to him play Byrd and Couperin on his living-room harpsichord; to teach me Latin, he opened his Biblia Sacra and read to me so I could hear the music in the language; to teach me to write, he reduced and redacted my ten pages of rambling into four. If a traditional way to approach a subject was to work through it "horizontally," Martin took you through it "vertically," or perhaps "diagonally," arriving at (nearly) the same place, but having encountered new and unexpected turns along the path. To listen to Martin expound on any subject -- music, language, life -- was to stand at the edge and be amazed at his perception and his depth of feeling. I remember no time when, leaving his presence, my head wasn't spinning! There is no limit to the respect and admiration I have for this incredible man. His humor was subtle and earthy, and his compliments, when paid, were of the jaw-dropping variety, due to their rarity as well as their obvious sincerity.

If there is one thing I know for certain about dear Brother Martin, it's that he loved and cherished his son Sulayman, and Aleshia as well. Martin fairly glowed with devotion and parental pride when Sulayman came to live in Iowa City. Since my daughter and son are of the same generation as Sulayman, Martin and I sometimes conversed about family matters. Once he asked me the what I thought was the essence of child rearing, and I replied, "Discipline, from the day they are born." After a quick raising of the eyebrows, he realized I used the word in its original sense: "disciplina" as instruction and learning. As a loving parent instructs the beloved child, so the beloved teacher instructs the grateful student.

I would like to share with all those who knew and loved Martin Jenni some of his own words to me, copied and pasted below from an email dated June 24, 2005. Fearing the worst, I was inquiring after his health and well-being, and here is part of his response:

"One lives intensively in the Now; anticipation is counterproductive. Actually I feel splendidly alive. Hope you're all well. Love, Martin."

I miss you and will always hold you in a special place in my heart: Magister, Doctor, Amicus.

Beth Zamzow (