Jeff Pens Bloomington, Ind. Community Song

I'm proud to announce that today the City of Bloomington, ind., my home for the last 22 years, released to the public my song "Ride," which I was commissioned to write in honor of the city's bicentennial. You can find official audio and sheet music versions of the song, from full-band to solo acoustic, from piano-vocal to choir, from orchestra to concert band to marching band, at

I've been overwhelmed by the amount of community support I've received around this project since penning the song last Spring. To date more than 35 other artists have participated in its many parts My goal was to capture in song the fertility of our amazing city and its unique progressive-traditional tension. My wife and others have told me stories over the years about how important are their memories of going for a "ride" with a parent as a child and the continuing importance of the memory to this day. The image stuck with me, and ultimately inspired this song, which celebrates the idea that here life is a ride, not a race.

My hope is that the song will become a permanent part of the local cultural landscape, and will perhaps help to preserve those values.

Ride (The Bloomington Song)


I took a ride with the world at my side Through the hills and the fields and the skies

Where the sun warms that part of my Bloomington heart Where I hold precious memories apart


It fills and I grow

Like higher things that flower 

In these hills of Monroe

With roots below and room enough to rise


Won’t you come and ride with me Through these Indiana streets

Past the limestone, the hearth and the home

Where the families of today still remember yesterday Yes we always remember our way


And so we ride, we don’t race

And we wish this gift of grace for the world

From our Bloomington home.


Remember when you chased the sun around

Until you finally reached the light?

Your letter said, “Give me the comfort and

The breeze of our Indiana ride.”


And so we ride, we don’t race

And we wish this gift of grace for the world From our Bloomington home


Yes we ride, we don’t race

And we wish this gift of grace for the world

From our Bloomington home


How did this happen? 

This reinvestment in my music--13 Questions--probably seems sudden, maybe even rash, but it has brewed for a while. I never meant to stop making music entirely. But raising kids and my huge (and ongoing) commitment to teaching/learning, not to mention writing the nonfiction novel Buskers (more on its publication to come) simply took up all the creative space I had. But when I finished writing Buskers, a funny thing happened: songs started coming with regularity. And as they did, rather than ignore them I indulged those streams to completion.

So by the summer of 2010, with a dozen-plus new songs in hand I set up a home studio and set out to learn the ins and outs of high-end recording. I quickly surmised that some things, drums and horn sections for instance, or mixing the final product, were out of my equipment and skill leagues, so I left those to pros at a few big commercial studios. The rest, though, was done the newfangled way, in my home studio or in one of my beloved "orange-box" sound rooms at IU; or exchanging tracks digitally with a variety of players who are similarly equipped; or sometimes travelling the country with my mobile recording unit to catch performances where my favorite old friends reside. It was ALL a labor of love. Even the false starts that stopped the project cold at two important junctures. All of it led to here. I am lucky to be here.

The new possibilities of direct-to-fan communication now make this possible without having to scuttle family and career. I'm happy to be "out there" again. I will do my best to blog up a storm on all topics, short and long. And I hope you'll add your thoughts. That's the beauty of this. Cheers.