In 1951, Jenkins earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology with minors in child psychology and recreation from San Francisco State University.
After graduating, she began writing songs for children and hosting a show on Chicago public television called “This is Rhythm.” In 1956, Jenkins became a full-time musician and recorded her first album, “Call-And-Response: Rhythmic Group Singing,” in 1957. Since then, she has recorded 29 other albums, including “Ella Jenkins and a Union of Friends” (1999), “Ella Jenkins and a Union of Friends Pulling Together” (2000), and “Sharing Cultures with Ella Jenkins” (2003), all of which were nominated for Grammy Awards for Best Musical Album for Children, and “Cellabration: A Tribute to Ella Jenkins” which won the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Musical Album for Children.
Jenkins is not only an important force in children’s lives, but also has taught her approach to working with children to parents and fellow music educators. Jenkins received the Life In Music Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers Foundation (ASCAP) in 1999, becoming the first woman and the first recipient in the field of children’s music, and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.