Harper, Jenise Ann Burmood

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .


Jenise Harper

(1942 - )

A native of Wood River, Nebraska.  She and her husband, Jim, traveled the West with his job transfers before landing in Evergreen in the mid-1970s.  Her degree in English/Drama/Speech teaching secondary education served her well throughout her life.

When her children were very young, she served as the music and drama teacher in the enrichment program of a local pre-school.  Among the first organizations the family became involved with were the Evergreen Chorale and the Evergreen Players, and that generally meant the entire family.

Early performances included Fiddler on the Roof as Fruma Sarah and Annie, Get Your Gun.  One of the highlights in her stage career was the first Chorale concert – performing Vivaldi's Gloria followed by the Jester Hairston concerts (conducted by Jester).

She joined the Evergreen Center for the Arts (ECA) as a volunteer and ultimately became the second executive director.  She recalled that others involved on the board of directors or as key volunteers at that time included Mike Moore, Rick Vancil, Sheila Clarke, Dag and Arnie Langberg, Sterling Nelson, Mike Jacoby, Sherita Henderson, Eugene D'Onofrio.

The start of Summerfest and Winterfest, Evergreen Children's Chorale

During her tenure as executive director, the organization initiated what has remained a custom ever since: Evergreen Summerfest.  That first year (1979), it was held in Bergen Park on a portion of Buchanan Park across from The Ridge at Hiwan.  The land was being purchased by ECA  as a home for a performing arts center.

"Sterling Nelson headed up entertainment, and we had some big Denver jazz names on a tiny makeshift stage that first year," she recalled.  The focus of Summerfest was arts and crafts and entertainment.  After the first year Sheila Clarke led the drive to rescue Heritage Grove (next to the Hiwan Homestead) from development, and Summerfest was relocated to the grove the second year.

Before turning over the position of Executive Director of the ECA to Starr Krauss, she and Starr worked together to start the first Winterfest Evergreen in 1985, "with the first event in a tent by the lake -- brrr."  The second year the event was held in the Open Living School later torn down to make room for the Evergreen Library. For the third year, it was moved to Evergreen Junior High School where it resided until the high school took over hosting duties, allowing more space and a lot more parking.

As Executive Director of the ECA, Jenise wrote a grant request to the newly formed Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), designed to start the Evergreen Children's Chorale.  It was approved in 1991, and the organization continues performing to this day.  Her grant-writing abilities helped a number of arts organizations.

A return to writing and teaching

For about three years in the 1980s, she served as editor of the Weekender, a short-lived publication of the Canyon Courier.  She continued with the Courier as an entertainment columnist.

She continued her involvement with the Evergreen Players, directing several shows including Bus Stop, Wizard of Oz, Diary of Anne Frank, Bye Bye Birdie.  She and her husband continued to sing with the Chorale's concert season and performed in the twice-yearly musicals.

She tried her hand at real estate during a boom time but "the world of drama and teaching beckoned me," she said, explaining her move over to Evergreen Junior High as the drama teacher, also teaching English and music.  She later taught English and journalism at Lakewood High School but jumped at the opportunity to move to Evergreen High School to direct the theater program and teach the honors English classes.

"While I was at EHS, I directed musicals and plays for four years.  Shows included Grease, MASH, Dracula, Guys and Dolls, Les Miserables, and many more  We did three shows a year:  a musical, a comedy and a drama or mystery."

She was involved in the Evergreen music and arts scene until June of 1990 when she and her husband relocated to Oregon, returning to Evergreen five years later.  She was employed as the Manager of Media Relations for Regis University, working with the television and radio stations as well as area newspapers to promote the university.

During this time, she and her husband rejoined the Evergreen Chorale and the Evergreen Players, performing and directing at Center/Stage.  She returned to writing a column for the Canyon Courier, focusing on happenings around town.  Her friends referred to her as the "gossip" columnist, as her colorful and picturesque style of writing enticed the reader beyond the normal content of a newspaper.

The Harpers moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2002, gravitating back to Evergreen in 2004 but unable to be involved in the arts scene except for attending events.  Jenise helped with her husband's business until he retired in 2009.  Since then they have called an RV their home, traveling around the Southwest and Northwest.

Jenise continues to write and edit for a newsletter related to their traveling lifestyle and writes and performs liturgical dramas for the chapel she attends during that part of the year spent in California.

Source:  Jenise Harper