By Cheryl Hizer
We in Irvington know JJ Stenzoski as one half of Delta Duo and enjoy the Delta Blues sound of this duo every First Friday, typically at 10 Johnson or The Irving. Delta Duo performs several times a year at Hopwood Cellars in Zionsville, and you can catch them in the second week of the Indiana State Fair. If you haven’t experienced one of their shows, you must make the time!
JJ met Irina Povarova in 2009 thanks to a brutal snow storm. As an instructor at IUPUI, he had been granted a rare snow day. While he shoveled his Irvington driveway, he spied a lone woman walking a dog through tire tracks in the road. As she approached and greeted him, JJ noted a Russian accent. JJ’s Russian response to her, of course, prompted Irina to stop and carry on a conversation with him.
JJ was born and raised in Chicago. He joined the Navy at 19 to avoid college and was stationed in California as a technician on submarines. After one failed attempt, JJ was appointed to the Naval Academy in 1976 — which, incidentally, was the first year the academy admitted women — where he learned Russian. He graduated in 1980 and specialized in Naval Aviation. After training in Pensacola and Sacramento, he was assigned to Patrol Squadron 24 in Jacksonville. His team hunted Soviet subs from the air. In 1986, he was admitted to Navy test pilot school. There, JJ helped in the early design of what we know today as touch screens!
Indiana gained JJ when he came to Naval Avionics as a U.S. Navy Commander in 1993. After 24 years of active service, JJ spent some time working in Mayor Stephen Goldsmith’s office, became a screenwriter in LA, started teaching part time at IUPUI, and picked up the guitar for the FIRST TIME at 53 years old!
In 2009, he had been playing for one year and met Irina, a professional, classically trained violinist from Russia. In 2011, JJ experienced “a transcendent moment.” He was practicing blues downstairs, while she practiced her violin upstairs, when Irina brought her violin downstairs and joined JJ’s blues. They started performing their unique sound together in the basement of Bookmamas in 2010.
Their First Friday shows include three or four different local artists that he recruits, or touring groups looking for a venue. Make sure to visit and like Delta Duo’s FB pageso you can stay updated on their performance schedule.
How long have you lived and/or worked here in Irvington?
JJ moved to Irvington in 1993 when joining Naval Avionics.
What do you do for fun?
JJ plays guitar and tends his garden. “I like the way nature responds to nurturing. It’s a nice relationship, nice communication.” He’s working on a greenhouse and starts all of his tomato plants from seed. He also enjoys growing fruit trees and currently nurtures an orchard with diverse trees: two cherry, two apple, a plum, an apricot, and one walnut.
What’s your favorite walk, bike ride, block, or view in the neighborhood?
His favorite walk is from his house to the library and back. He walks down curvy Audubon and pops out at the library. He credits Irina for encouraging him to walk more and finds the houses along the way beautiful.
If you were Mayor of Irvington for a day, what would you do first?
“I’d put musicians on every corner, in front of every store. Like Discover Irvington, it’d be Discover Irvington Musicians Day.”