Making waves

Retired radio host shares love for band

Jeff+Christenson+spent+his+career+as+a+radio+host%2C+but+found+Marcus+band+a+great+place+to+volunteer.

Photo submitted by Jeff Christenson

Jeff Christenson spent his career as a radio host, but found Marcus band a great place to volunteer.

Jeff Christenson is a lifelong music fanatic. On hot Texas afternoons, you can often find him watching the drumline rehearse in the lot on the corner of Dixon and Morriss.

The 66-year-old is always smiling as he stands with his cane moving gently to the synchronized, pounding beats of the battery percussion, and the beautiful melodic mallet playing of the pit.

Christenson didn’t know what his son was signing up for when he joined percussion, but the magic that came from those kids was astounding to him.

“I’m not a drummer; I wish I was,” Christenson said. “But I’m such a percussion fan and freak.”

Christenson has been in radio for over five decades and has had an accomplished career full of number one radio shows, a trophy wall decorated with gifted golden records and countless pictures of him with celebrities. But he always came back to his love of the drumline.

• • •

Christenson was never in band, but it was an unexpected love he found through his kids.

He moved to Lewisville for work with his wife Regina and kids, Jason and Melissa, in the 90’s. His children went through the Marcus feeder schools where they joined band. His son went into the percussion program under the direction of the longtime percussion instructor Kennan Wylie.

“We got into the elementary schools and came up the chain up to Marcus, not knowing anything about the drumline, not knowing the reputation that the drumline had,” said Christenson. “But my son was really good.”

His wife and he became involved as members in the Booster Club because of the passion he felt for the program. In his son’s second year, Christenson was elected as the president of the Booster Club.

“We put emotion and heart and feeling into what was going on,” Christenson said. “And I would explain to all the freshmen parents every year what Mr. Wylie’s technique was on how he was going to mold your kids to be champions.”

Christenson has been a longtime fan of the school band ever since his kids were a part of it 15 years ago. (Photo submitted by Jeff Christenson)

Christenson appreciated the culture of the organization and Wylie’s teaching style was remarkable to him, something he didn’t expect when his kids signed up to be in a small town marching band.

“Basically, by the time you’re out as a senior, you’re a different person and you’re so strong,” Christenson said. “He is a great teacher. Probably one of the best I think I’ve ever seen in all the years I’ve been alive.”

One year when the Lone Star Drumline Competition rolled around, Wylie needed an announcer so he turned to Christenson. With a reputable radio career like his, he was the man for the job.

“Wylie says, ‘I want you on that microphone.’ So I’ll give it a shot,” Christenson said. “I’m not a sportscaster, but…ever since then, I’ve been doing as many as I could.”

Wylie said Christenson’s selflessness is one of his best parts.

“Mr. Christenson is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet,” Wylie said. “He would give his coat for anybody who was out in the cold. He was one of those people that was always more concerned about others than himself.”

• • •

With his love for music, Christenson wanted to be on the radio ever since he was a child. He’d search on the radio until he found Elvis Presley playing and he’d pretend to announce the singers, just like the DJs he listened to.

“From that point on my mom and my dad knew that I was going to be in radio,” Christenson said.

He listened to radio as if it were religion and couldn’t wait to do it himself.

“I didn’t care about what kind of radio station I was on,” Christenson said, “I just wanted to be in radio.”

After a few smaller gigs at local radio stations, Christenson eventually ended up broadcasting for ABC Broadcast Network with cohost Maria Danza. People all over the world tuned in as they cracked jokes and died of laughter, and as they brought comfort to the people who needed it.

“I spoke to our troops in Afghanistan every day,” Christenson said. “I have a stack of American flags where it says ‘this flag was flown over Afghanistan in honor of…’ and I’ve got all these things that were thanking me because I was a piece of home while these young people were all overseas.”

Christenson was thrilled to take a photo with actress and singer Olivia Newton John. He has interviewed various celebrities over the years, but she left him starstruck. (Photo submitted by Jeff Christenson)

On top of broadcasting worldwide, he’s met, interviewed and befriended various celebrities over the years. He was absolutely starstruck when he met actress Olivia Newton John, the star of “Grease.” He remembers confessing his love to her like a schoolboy.

“And so during the interview with her I said ‘I always, I just always had a crush on you,’” Christenson said. “I said, ‘Tell me I was in your dreams too,’ and she said ‘I’m sorry, Paul McCartney was in my head.’ That was the very first thing we even talked about.”

• • •

Even though he’s still buddies with some celebrities, Christenson keeps in touch with many of the former students and staff from his time volunteering with the school’s band.

“We still talk, and I’ll see them at the store and they’ll say ‘Mr. C!’ and I say ‘Just remind me your name, I’m sorry. I’m an old man now,’” Christenson said.

By supporting the band, Christenson said he can spread his love for music.

“Music is universal. It touches every heart, every soul,” Christenson said.

I’ve always been a firm believer that music is the one thing that attracts everybody.”

— Jeff Christenson

It’s his love for music that keeps him coming back to the school over 15 years after his son graduated. He comes to the parking lot as an audience of one to watch a performance from a group he loves unlike any other.

“It’s gold records. You can’t buy those,” Christenson said.