I have been involved in music since the age of 15. Went to Aspen School, then Yale University, then U.C. Berkeley. I worked my whole adult life at the SF Conservatory, finally retired. I now teach privately, at the San Francisco High School for the Arts, and I teach group lessons for the Golden Gate Philharmonic (a youth orchestra). I enjoy all of this very much. My web site will show you the wide range of work I do --- www.aldenjenks.com.
I was director of the Conservatory's Computer Music Studio, so I can teach subjects in that area as well.
I enjoy providing the tools you need to understand music deeply, which translates into greater success in playing your instrument, composing, or simply appreciating music. And I enjoy showing you both the very most basic basics, and some of the fascinating experiments composers have made over the centuries.
I studied composition with Dr. Alden Jenks for four years, taking weekly private lessons with him. After this considerable length of time, I can say with confidence that Dr. Jenks is one of the kindest, most knowledgeable teachers I have ever had. His most salient strength is his deep knowledge of music, both Western Classical and other genres, driven by his passion for finding new motifs and sounds to inspire future compositions. Not only is Dr. Jenks a master of his craft, he is also a gifted instructor, with abundant patience and eagerness to guide the student into growing his or her own musical ideas to fruition. Our lessons would typically consist of me presenting the progression of my composition over the week, and an intriguing ensuing discussion of further possibilities, with frequent immersion into pertinent musical masterpieces, history and culture. Any student of Dr. Jenks will be sure to improve their composition ability, both through guided practice, and grounded in a musical lore necessary to broaden one’s musical thinking. In addition, by conversing with Dr. Jenks regularly and following his guidance through the vast musical landscape, any student will find his or her overall musical appreciation and knowledge broadening exponentially, and through regular inspiration by the great works, will feel continually replenishing enthusiasm to create music of his or her own. I also cannot overemphasize the positive impact of Dr. Jenks’ warm, welcoming, patient personality on the ambiance of our lessons together, which was essential for me to erase my fear of trying new musical ideas, in service of creativity. For me, Dr. Jenks’ lessons were life-changing, and though I am not a musician, a large part of my present love and appreciation of music is derived from our four years of experiences together. I strongly recommend Dr. Jenks to any prospective student.
Alden is one of the kindest people I know. As a teacher, he is full of insight and his patience is unending. One of the very few teachers who allows the student to discover things, while gently guiding them through the process.
I have been very fortunate to study with Alden. I am an adult student (PhD candidate at Berkeley) and have been playing the piano since I was young. Sometimes I think about it I'm still amazed: a very average talent like me has a chance to enjoy the help of a seasoned professional like Alden, who taught at the SF Conservatory and studied with the great John Cage. Alden always takes great care to prepare our lessons, even though I'm sure someone as knowledgable as him could have just improvised. He types and prints out the lesson outlines before I come, and made notes about what to say for each piece we study. I am nobody to judge his expertise, but at least to me the things he say in lessons are often quite wise and profound. This is especially true when we looked at early (pre-)Renaissance music and Serialism. He would do ear training, play Bach fugues with me in four hands, stumble through with me the composition of a canon, and lend me a jazz CD to take home in the end of the lesson. He would design the curriculum around your interests, and there is never a shortage of knowledge you can take from him, the only limitation would be your own devotion. In short, Alden would be a perfect fine choice if you just wanted to learn some "music theory", but he is not your average "music theory teacher". He is a thoughtful musician from whom I gained invaluable perspectives on Bach and Beethoven, as well as Schoenberg and the Gregorian chants.
I first make sure I understand the student's background and objectives. I test their understanding in a number of ways. I then propose a plan of action. As lessons progress, the work takes on new dimensions.
My profile describes my experience: attended the Aspen School as a teenager; then Yale University (B.A., Music Theory) and U.C. Berkeley (M.A., Music Composition). I studied piano with Barbara Shearer and with Robert Helps.