Hi friends, we’d like to give you an update from our family and let you know about something that feels important to us. April 19 will mark 5 years since we said goodbye to our 10 year old daughter Norah. When our whole world came crashing down, a community came together from near and far to support us, in too many ways to even begin to write down here. Over the last 5 years we have been learning how to be a family of three, learning how to live beside our grief, and working to establish traditions that honor Norah’s memory.

Red Wing Roots Music Festival was and continues to be a cornerstone in our year. From an early age, Norah loved our time at Red Wing and took ownership of the festival. She would ride her bike around the campgrounds, stopping backstage to check in with her parents and grab a snack. A memory we will always hold is of her peeking out of her bunk window from our camper-way past her bedtime-as she listened to musicians picking around the campfire. Music was always around her. Red Wing was without a doubt the highlight of Norah’s year, and part of the excitement came from performing on stage with her dad and the rest of The Steel Wheels, along with the Red Wing Academy students.

Red Wing Academy is a 4 day string camp for 5-19 year old students, held in the week leading up to the festival. This year, with the help of many in the community, we have founded a brand new non-profit organization that will benefit Red Wing Academy. Its called Red Wing Academy Foundation, and its mission is to fund the scholarship program, allowing anyone to attend the camp, regardless of their ability to pay. Keep reading below to find out more about the inspiration behind this fund, and what we hope to do with it in the future.

Norah at the first Fiddle Workshop before it was named Red Wing Academy (2015)
Norah and sister Lydia in the middle of it all in 2017
Trying out the banjo in a Red Wing Academy elective course (2018)

Red Wing Academy began when Norah was just 7 years old and she was a big part of the inspiration to provide a program for young fiddlers just getting into folk music. We want to share her story and how she directly impacted the formation of the Academy, and let you know about the Foundation so you can help us spread the word.

Norah was a natural musician, with an uncanny ear for pitch and melody. She could carry a tune long before she could speak full sentences, and was able to remember and reproduce melodies when she was as young as 18 months. Starting at age 5 she learned violin from her beloved teacher, Miss Megan Tiller, who also marveled at the way she internalized music. Many young students learn the fingerings on a violin and know a tune by which finger to play on which string. Norah internalized the melodies and, if we hummed the beginning of one of her Suzuki songs in the wrong key, would simply start playing the song in that key, transposing in her head as she went. Being a violin player quickly became part of Norah’s identity. It was something she knew she was good at and that built her confidence.

In 2015, with the help of our partners at EMU preparatory music and Red Wing Roots, Megan and Eric started Red Wing Academy. It was conceived as a way to get young stringed instrument musicians in the area involved in folk music and the festival scene. We wanted our own daughters to have a way to plug into the music community that we were building at Red Wing, and make connections with other young musicians. Making music is a social task, and having a group to play with and an exciting place to play can be a huge motivator to keep going and keep improving. The Academy was in a sense designed for Norah and her peers, and she was an important part of it from the very first year.

Our desire in years to come is to create an endowed fund in her name, so that she will continue to spread that love of music. We have started the Foundation and seeded the scholarship fund with money that was donated to us at the time of Norah’s hospitalization. If you gave money during that time, we are endlessly grateful. The money that was raised through the caringbridge.org campaign provided us with the needed cushion to allow us to take some time off as we grieved and figured out next steps. However, it never felt like it was our money to spend. Those funds were donated to support Norah as she recovered from her illness and to make necessary living adjustments for her. So we have thought on how we can use the remaining money in a way to honor Norah’s memory. With the establishment of this foundation, we hope that part of Norah’s legacy will be to spread her love of music to other young musicians.

Every year, as the world around us is waking up and warming and redbud trees are in bloom, an extra weight descends on our shoulders as we mark another anniversary. Every reminder of the passage of time is an opportunity to dwell on what has been lost. And as any of us contemplates our own place in that timeline, it is natural for us all to start to think about our own legacy and what we will leave behind. What does a 10 year old leave behind, other than a huge emptiness in the ones who loved her? We choose to believe that Norah did have an impact on this world and will continue to through the people who loved her. She changed us profoundly, and by doing so, perhaps the people we continue to meet and interact with.

This message is a thank you to everyone who surrounded us with love and supported us financially back in 2019 and has continued to remember our family. Since that time, we have been looking for a way to pay forward some of that support to others who need it. We are excited that there is now a way for anyone to easily donate and receive a tax deduction, so spread the word if there is anyone you know that would like to support young musicians and folk music education in VA.

Eric, Peggy, and Lydia

Norah playing on our front porch in early spring (2018).

13 Replies to “Learning”

  1. Jan Houser says:

    Thank you for this wonderful update.Your family has consistently honored Norah by including all of your readers in your family’s journey. Thank you for including us in your lives.

  2. Charlene (Emmert) Schultz says:

    I love this! Thanks for the update.

  3. Diann and Todd Bailey says:

    Your family continues to be in our prayers. Grace and peace as you continue to grieve.

  4. Melissa L Long says:

    Norah did impact this world and those around her. Her sweet and gentle spirit will always be remembered.

  5. Malinda says:

    This spring I’ve often thought of what Norah might be doing now: at school, with her sister, playing music with her dad, in the kitchen with her Mom, eating snacks at Grammy and Poppy’s. She was a beautiful person. Thanks for this update on you all.

  6. Patressa Kearns says:

    Thank you, Brubaker Family, for this update. I think about Norah and your family often. I wish we could have seen where Norah’s natural talent for music would take her. Perhaps we are seeing it now, with this new way to honor her memory and make a beautiful-music world for other children. I believe Norah did make a difference in this world and continues to do so. I choose to believe Norah is smiling and playing her music right now.

    I wish and pray for your peace.

  7. Linda Warehime says:

    What a wonderful way to honor and remember Norah and to help others at the same time. Thank you and God bless you as you continue the journey….

  8. Deb Huffman says:

    It will be my honor to donate to Norah’s legacy. Such a beautiful and gifted child whose legacy will live on through music. Love and hugs to you all as you continue your journey of love and grief.

  9. Keri Hutcheson says:

    What a beautiful way to remember Norah.

  10. I can’t think of a more fitting way to honor her and use the donations so wisely and in her spirit.

  11. Kendra Snyder says:

    Thank you for posting this update. As your family crosses my mind from time to time there is always a deep heaviness as I think back to that time 5 years ago but I am so thankful you have found a way to channel your grief into spreading love through music. It is such an important gift. ♥️

  12. My heart is with you always. This is a beautiful way to honor sweet Norah’s legacy.

  13. Robbin Stokes says:

    I donated and wish I could give more – but I will continue to send what I can when I can. Thank you for the opportunity. Music has always been part of my life (I’m 78). My grandfather loved classical and had enormous speakers for his record player. My mother played classical, country, pop and current music. The discovered the guitar and folk music mid-life, which in turn brought her to performing and becoming friends with many other performers both amateur and professional. My sisters and I were in school bands. My daughter and granddaughter learned violin in school orchestra – first chair both them but now they play at times on the hammered dulcimer also. Your group is our No. 1 choice for following and for attending your concerts – from just 2 of us to at times 10 of us. Thank you for that opportunity also!

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