Soulful singing that brought a tear to the eye was Jesse Christensen’s trademark. He was always ready to share his love for life through song. At his big barn home on 50 acres, he even had a stage in his Great Room and a wagon bed stage on his lawn out by the workshop. He was well known around town for his singing at various well- known social, lodging and eating establishments and events. He often brought others along, including his son, Colter, on cajon and myself on fiddle. My daughter, Christie, said he always made everyone feel important. He brought out the best in people. He made them feel things through music that they were reluctant to face in real life.
Jesse was humble about his self-taught rhythm guitar skills. He confided to his wife, Leslie, that he wanted to study music as a boy but his family was too poor to afford lessons. Instead, he taught himself to sing and play guitar by listening studiously to recordings and learning the music by rote. He never learned to read notes. Leslie said he wished to be able to give other poor kids the chance to study music so they didn’t have to do it the hard way like he did.
He never got that chance in life. He was killed on February 14, 2017 in an avalanche while snow biking the Flattops. His last words were heard by his friend, Sean, while they were trekking through the snow before the avalanche hit: “It doesn’t get any better than this.” Sean barely survived the avalanche but Jessie never had a chance. His passing left a gaping hole in many hearts. It took two memorials to accommodate all who mourned him. It still makes me weep when I think of all the wonderful memories made while playing music with him. No more memories can be made now.
Leslie came to me last February on the first anniversary of his loss to ask my thoughts about putting together a foundation to accomplish Jesse’s dream of making music lessons accessible to all. Together, we talked about what he would want — not an easy pass, but a way to give those who really wanted it a leg up. So Jesse’s Music in the ‘Boat was born. Leslie formed a 501(c)3 non-profit, a foundation to offer grants to deserving music students in Steamboat. Jesse, up there in Heaven, has still found a way to make music on Earth!