It is with a heavy heart that I share the news of my grandmother’s passing. I shared a bit about her kindness, wisdom, and generosity in last month’s Mother’s Day article. Sadly, cancer took her before she was able to read it herself. I’m grateful I could be by her side in her final days and that she’s now at peace. I’m also thankful for the friends who supported me during the grieving process. Now, as my family and I move forward, I feel compelled to share her story with you and celebrate her incredible kindness.

Joy Faith and Music

Norma J. Nehring was one of those people you always want to be around. She was jovial, compassionate, and a great listener. She only got fierce when people badmouthed her family or the Minnesota Twins. She was quick to laugh and had more friends than anyone I’ve ever  met. And, of course, she loved to sing.

School of Music a reality. But my grandmother gets the credit for helping me discover my love of music in the first place. As a devout member of Abiding Savior Lutheran Church, my grandmother sang in the church choir for over 60 years. When I was just 5 years old, she enrolled me in the kid’s choir, introducing me to the joys of singing. When she saw how much I enjoyed myself, she looked for more ways for me to explore my musical talents.

It’s important to note that my grandmother was a primary caregiver during this point in my life. In a single parent household, my mother had to work long hours as a nurse to support us. So, I was raised, in part, by my grandparents. My grandfather was a truck driver and would be away for long periods, so my grandmother and I spent a lot of time bonding. Seeing what a positive difference the choir had made in my life, she later got me started in piano lessons.

Every week she’d drive me to the church for my lessons. They were held in a dimly lit basement, down a long dark hallway. I’ll be In past articles, I’ve thanked people who’ve helped me make Minnesota honest — I was not excited to be there. But I knew my grandmother would be waiting for me afterward and that the music I was learning to play would make her smile. I was very nervous during my very first recital and made my fair share of mistakes, but she was right there to tell me everything was okay. I’ve tried to pass on that same nurturing spirit through our school.

My grandmother didn’t just plant the musical seed that would one day grow into MnSOM; she also nurtured it from the moment it sprouted. She was the first person to wholeheartedly support me when I set out to make this school a reality. When I began to doubt myself, she would speak life into me. At times, she would even give more than words.

Like any small business, our music school had some hiccups in the beginning. One particularly bad month, I simply didn’t have the funds to process payroll. I mentioned this to my grandmother, who was always curious about MnSOM, and expected her to offer some words of advice. Instead, she opened her bank account and ensured our employees were paid on time. To say I was speechless is an understatement.

But that’s just how much my grandmother cared about MnSOM. While I visited her in the nursing home up until her final days, she’d ask me: “How’s the music school?” From beginning to end, she was the heart and soul of MnSOM, and I want to carry her spirit forward.

That’s why we’re announcing the Norma J. Nehring Scholarship Fund. We hope this scholarship will help other children find the same love of learning an instrument that my grandmother gave me. I can think of no better way to honor her memory than to pass on the joy of music.

–Eric Nehring