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Don Jeske, Bass

Born and raised on a small farm near Arlington (a small town of 1200 people in eastern South Dakota), Don came from a very musical family. “We always had a piano in our home,” Don says, “and my sisters and I all started with piano lessons.  My parents didn’t have the money for them, so they paid with eggs and cream from the farm.”  Don played trombone in the school band in addition to singing in the chorus.  In a high school of just 190 students, they fielded a 60+ piece band and an 80+ voice chorus.  Clearly music was important in that town. Don says he can’t remember when he started to sing, but it was when he was very young and probably beginning with the children’s choir in the Methodist church.

Don came to California to attend Chaffey Junior College and sang his first Messiah with the Fontana Community Chorus in 1960.  After Chaffey, he moved north to Oregon State University to study Pharmacy and there joined the University chorus singing with the select 50+ voice Choralaires under the direction of Robert Walls.  He calls singing with that group an experience that shaped his outlook on choral singing and he and Mr. Walls remained in contact for 20 to 30 years.

His pharmacy career was interrupted by  being drafted into the Army, where as a pharmacist, he was stationed for a time at Ft. Hamilton in Brooklyn, NY.  There, he frequented the USO on Times Square, where he could get free tickets to all sorts of entertainment.  Courtesy of the USO ticket program, for little or no money, he was able to see every play or musical on Broadway and in 50 or more performances at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, a long list of world class performers.  He calls that time a transforming experience for him.

After the Army, he resumed his career in pharmacy and eventually settled in Santa Barbara, where for 23 years–until his retirement in 2003–he worked as a pharmacist with the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.  One of the first things he did upon moving to Santa Barbara in 1976 was to join Santa Barbara Choral Society.  He’d been out of choral singing for 10 years and truly missed it! In the 38 years he has sung with the Choral Society, he has missed but one performance and has performed in 6 operas at the Music Academy of the West.  Don served as Treasurer for the Choral Society twice in past years.  Times have certainly changed: the annual operating budget in 1981 when he became Treasurer was $2500 and the chorus had but 50 members.  By 1983, the chorus had grown to 100 and the operating budget to $30,000.

When not singing, Don was once an avid runner, but switched to bicycling in the 90’s.  He has biked all over Europe and along the Oregon Coast.  He currently rides about 80 to 100 miles a week, weather (and health) permitting.  He’s also an avid photographer with thousands of slides taken on his trips around the globe.

Don lives in a comfortable townhouse with his two cats, Butch and Sundance.