Andre Jensen has taught for almost 24 years at City College. But the seasoned philosophy professor has one regret: that he didn’t follow his passion for music when he was young. After high school, when it came time for college, Jensen just didn’t believe he could make a career in music and make a living. Although he loves teaching, Jensen, 49, holds an overwhelming passion for music.
“I have known Andre for 30 years,” his wife, Linda, explains. “He teaches as a way to serve others. Music, on the other hand, is something he does for himself. Music feeds his soul. To Andre, the purpose of playing music is to raise joy in the musicians and in those listening.”
Jensen describes himself as an amateur musician, and his instrument of choice is the guitar. He has played classic rock, jazz, reggae, blues and hard rock, but Linda says he loves playing when there is some level of improvisation.
“He loves to see where the music will take him,” she says.
Jensen says he took one music class in college and then pushed his music career to the back burner. His guitar stayed in the closet for 13 years. Every once in a while, he pulled it out to refresh his memory and reminisce on the joy it brought him.
It wasn’t until 2004 that Jensen began to play seriously. He now plays in a band called “Crossing the River” with two other musicians. Jensen chose the band’s name. It comes from the Buddhist image of crossing the River Samsara to Nirvana.
The band doesn’t have a singer; it simply consists of Jensen playing the guitar, and the two other men playing the drums and the bass guitar. The band plays a mixture of instrumental, improvisational and classic rock.
“Crossing the River” has come a long way in the last year and now has people who come out to watch the band play, including his No. 1 fan, wife Linda, who Jensen has been married to for 25 years.
Jensen says he didn’t begin his journey as an educator planning to teach philosophy. He was encouraged to take a philosophy class in college to challenge himself. He had always been interested in religion, but philosophy was a new challenge.
“I was enthused,” Jensen explains. “It amazed me that people were trying to apply rationality to the religious problems, political problems, and so forth in the way that philosophers did. For a while there, every time I could fit a philosophy class into my general education plan, I would.”
Jensen continued to take philosophy classes throughout his college education and declared a liberal studies major with an emphasis in philosophy, thinking he would teach elementary school. It wasn’t until after a childhood education class that he discovered he wanted to major in philosophy instead. Jensen’s love for teaching began after he received his master’s degree from UC, Davis, in 1992. A year later he was teaching.
Music continues to be Jensen’s passion, but he also has a great appreciation for the classes that he teaches. One of those classes is Introduction to World Religions. Despite having a Christian background, Jensen has come to believe that all religions have some truth in them.
“I enjoy his storyteller style of lecture,” says John Casino, one of Jensen’s philosophy students. “His notes, coupled with his narrations, weave a tapestry of imagination that make absorption of the information given easy to understand and retain.”
Jensen is authentic. He enjoys sharing his personal life with his classes and getting to know his students. He says he does his best to practice humility from day to day.
“I would give one piece of advice to any student who asks, and that is pursue what you love,” Jensen explains. “Figure out what it is, and pursue it. If there some way to work in that area, then that’s fantastic and your job is connected to what you love. If that’s not possible, make sure you carve out some time in your life for it. It is astounding to me that I didn’t follow music.”