Jim Kent has been gracing the Crookston community with his smooth yet powerful tenor vocals for most of the last 45 years at church services, weddings, special events and as part of a larger group of voices. On Sunday, Nov. 18, he'll be featured in "A Sunday Afternoon of Music" at the Wesley United Methodist Church, along with George French on the piano and the Crookston Area Men's Chorus. The program begins at 3 p.m. and refreshments will served afterwards. Freewill donations will be accepted to benefit the combined project of the U of M, Crookston's Imagine No Malaria and the ELCA Malaria Initiative to stamp out malaria in Africa.
"I had always wanted to do a feature program in Crookston, and at the United Methodist Church where the acoustics are just wonderful," said Kent. "The church also got a new grand piano last year which sounds beautiful. So when George French said, 'We should do a concert there,' I jumped at the chance."
Kent grew up in Hatton, N.D. and received his bachelor's in music from the University of North Dakota. While music majors learned how to play the various instruments and usually specialized in one, "mine was my voice," he said. "I did a lot of singing in college, that was my specialty." He later earned his master's degree from Ball State University in Indiana.
He came to Crookston in the fall of 1967 to teach elementary music at six buildings – Washington, Lincoln, Franklin, McKinley, Eugene Field and Carman schools. After three years, he resigned to teach in Okinawa for the Defense Department, which he did until returning to Crookston the next year. Most of years with the Crookston School District were spent teaching elementary and junior high students music, although he did take over as the senior high choir director for one year in the 1980s when longtime director Garfield Reichert left the position.
"I have to say, I think I enjoyed teaching the elementary kids the most," he said. "I can remember putting on a few really good Christmas programs and some others with special themes back in the 70s. Those were some good times."
Kent's job changed significantly in 1986 when he went down to half time in music and began working half time in staff development, along with biology teacher Ardell Knudsvig.
"It think we visited every classroom in the district every year," he said.
Around the time the state standards and testing ramped up and with cuts made in the music department, Kent spent the last few years of his teaching career full-time in staff and curriculum development.
"With all the accountability required from the state, all the testing we did was then really meaning something," he said.
Although Kent retired from the district in 2001, he has been assisting in the area of staff and curriculum development in various ways since then. He now assists guidance counselor Ray Lutovsky in carrying out assessments.
Page 2 of 2 - Kent's musical contributions to the community also include serving as Methodist's choir director for many years and being part of the Community Men's Chorus. He and his wife, Sandi, a former physical education instructor with Crookston schools, have two grown children, a son and daughter.