Saturday, June 12

Norman Bernal, Generation-Spanning Music Teacher, Dies at 75

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Norman Bernal, a Peruvian-born violinist who immigrated to the United States, had a job that was not for the faint of heart: putting string instruments in the hands of adolescents and drawing music out of his young charges.

He did it for decades in Georgia’s public schools, a part of his musical life that did not bring ovations from an audience. But his dedication was nevertheless recognized by those who knew him, and recalled in the days after his death on Sept. 7 in Lawrenceville, Ga.

He was 75. His daughter, Janeen Bernal said the cause was Covid-19.

“Anyone who goes into teaching at a middle school willingly is a saint — and then add music to that,” said Sara Hennessey, who learned cello from Mr. Bernal beginning in 1988. “But I remember him being so patient. Teaching middle schoolers might not have been his first love, but he did it well.”

Along the way, in addition to studying performance and conducting — including, briefly, with the prominent maestro Herbert Blomstedt — Mr. Bernal trained to become a luthier, a craftsman of string instruments.

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