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Celebrate student success with a rock star

- Event features Jennifer Batten, solo artist and former guitarist for Michael Jackson, Jeff Beck


by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Guitarist Jennifer Batten moved to East County 10 years ago, seeking a fresh start away from Los Angeles. On Jan. 24, she will perform at a special event for Gresham area children and families. Here, she is pictured with event organizer Jesse Schmunk.

When Michael Jackson and his band took the stage at the 1993 Super Bowl, their halftime show became one of the most watched broadcasts in American television history.

For guitarist Jennifer Batten, it was a career high.

“It was such a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Batten, 56, said. “I’ll never play for a billion and a half people at the same time again for the rest of my life.”

That was almost 21 years ago. Batten moved to East Clackamas County 10 years ago, ready for a different pace.

“I wanted a break and got everything I wanted up here — the opposite of L.A.,” she said.

During her career, Batten has toured with Michael Jackson and Jeff Beck, along with producing three solo albums and writing two music books.

That first year in Oregon, Batten took time off, attending every craft and music show in the area.

“You can’t always output; sometimes you just have to take time to input,” Batten said. “I got into the visual arts, and when I returned to music, it was much fresher.”

Does she get stopped by fans in the Portland area?

“No, not with this haircut,” Batten joked. “If I had the MJ haircut (an iconic bleach blond rock star ‘do), it might be a different story, but I left that hairspray in the ‘80s.”

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: JENNIFER BATTEN - Batten toured with Michael Jackson three times and performed in the 1993 Super Bowl halftime show, one of her career highlights.

Today, Batten keeps busy with an international tour circuit, teaching guitar lessons and creating “steampunk” metal art, which has amassed in her home.

As a longtime fan of Batten and the father of a young daughter, Gresham resident Jesse Schmunk thought the guitarist was a prime example of someone who had achieved success.

He wanted to emphasize the significance of music and character education in an event for East County families, and invited Batten to perform last June.

Schmunk is organizing a second celebration to honor Gresham area elementary, middle and high school students from 6-9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24, at David Douglas High School, Room 168, 1001 S.E. 135th Ave., Portland.

The event has no association with Gresham area school districts (or the David Douglas School District) and has a capacity for about 100 students and family members.

The evening will feature food, activities, a performance by Batten and a speech by Terry Lynn Link, the creator of the children’s television series “Tails of Abbygail.”

“Our intention is to encourage, inspire, challenge, educate and entertain,” Schmunk said. "We bring success closer for local students and families alike."

Batten received her first guitar — a red and blue electric — at age 8, but didn’t announce her plans for becoming a professional guitar player until age 12.

“I had four years to get it together,” she joked.

Batten remembers the early years when she would watch “bootleg, VHS tapes” of English rock guitarist Jeff Beck, pausing to see where his fingers were on the guitar neck and rewinding the tape to learn his songs.

Though Batten flunked the initial entrance exam for guitar school at age 19, she was chosen from 100 guitarists to work with Michael Jackson and went on to play with Jeff Beck, one of her greatest musical influences.

“It’s incredibly phenomenal to see how many young geniuses are out there today,” Batten said. “They live on the Internet and learn everybody’s stuff. These are the years you don’t have to work, where you get absorbed into your passion.”

She wants to emphasize to students that with the Internet, they can learn almost anything they want without spending a million dollars. Batten also encourages students to be kind and gracious in whatever they pursue.

“Really, the whole point of performing is to communicate and inspire,” Batten said.

For more information or to RSVP for the event, contact Schmunk at 971-221-3242 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Tickets cost $10 per person.



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