By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Singer, songwriter, and percussionist Connie Kappel-Sather loved music.
That’s why her 1985 Holy Trinity (HT) classmates decided, after her death Oct. 1, 2011, to raise funds to purchase several new musical instruments as a memorial in Kappel-Sather’s name and donate them to the HT band program.
During a dedication ceremony, which took place in HT’s school gym March 15, a Djembe (an African drum), temple blocks, a 32-inch timpani drum, and two moroccos were presented to school band director, Laura Boillat.
Because of Kappel-Sather’s love for the drums, all of the donated pieces were percussion instruments.
Pat Schommer, HT class of 1985, opened the dedication ceremony.
“At HT, Connie was involved in all aspects of the band program including concert band, marching band, jazz band, and pep band. Connie made a whole career out of bringing her love of music to others.”
The classmates had no idea how much money they would raise when they first started to collect the funds, but were surprised when they received $2,200 from a class of only 35.
Kappel-Sather’s family attended the HT dedication and found the memorial to music was a great comfort to them, especially Kappel-Sather’s parents, Fran and Carol Kappel of Winsted.
It was not just the memorial on behalf of their daughter that meant so much to the Kappels, but the thoughtfulness of their daughter’s classmates at the time of her death.
“Twenty-eight of her classmates came to Connie’s funeral,” Fran said.
“All of them gave so much when she died. It was unbelievable,” Carol said.
“She would have been so proud (of her classmates’ donation to HT band),” Carol said.
Fran added, “I just think it’s the greatest thing any classmate could do for another classmate. Our family certainly appreciates it. It’s quite a deal for classmates to do something like this in her honor.”
“We will never forget what they have done,” Carol said. “It has helped ease the pain.”
Kappel-Sather died at the age of 44.
She was dining at a restaurant in Minneapolis with a friend, when food lodged in her throat and she choked to death.
No one in the restaurant was able to help her.
Her death came a little more than a year after she had suffered a stroke. She was just beginning to make real progress in her physical therapy at St. Mary’s in Winsted.
“Connie had such a good outlook. I don’t think she ever gave up,” Carol said. “Everything was going good.”
The morning that Kappel-Sather died, Carol had talked with her daughter, who was to return to Winsted that day. She planned to stay in Winsted after a final surgery, which she was hoping would allow her to play the drums again.
Playing the drums had been the beginning of Kappel-Sather’s love of music, she said in a 2009 interview.
Part of the reason, she said was that she was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to attend HT, where she was taught by some extremely talented instructors and played in a jazz band with several classmates who were also outstanding musicians.
“When I played in the pep band, I started when I was 11 years old,” Kappel-Sather said in a 2009 interview. “We had about 60 people who played and we got tons of marching band awards.”
During her senior year at HT, she won the John Philip Sousa Award along with her classmate, Henry Weinbeck.
After high school, Kappel-Sather attended the University of Minnesota, where she studied song writing, theory, percussion, voice, and conducting.
According to her classmates and parents, Kappel-Sather was always in a band.
In the late ‘80s, she played with the well-known band, Drover and that was when she was encouraged to sing.
“She had a special voice,” Fran said. “When I first heard her sing, I couldn’t believe it.”
“The first time she ever tried to sing, she had to turn her back to the band, because she was shy,” Carol said.
Later, Kappel-Sather found she was able to sing as long as she played the drums at the same time.
Over the years, Kappel-Sather overcame her fear of singing in front of an audience. She would sing for special occasions like her classmates’ weddings, and funerals of relatives.
And, of course, her many friends, classmates, and relatives remember her performance at Winstock in 2005, with a band called “About Time.”
It was also in 2005 that Kappel-Sather was recovering from thyroid/lymphatic cancer, which affected her voice. Following 21 rounds of radiation, there was a time when she was unable to sing a note or talk for awhile.
In 2009, Kappel-Sather received an Upper Canadian music award for the song “Loving This Way,” a country ballad she co-authored and sang with long-time friend Taylor England. The song won an award for best arrangement and performance.
However, she was unable to travel to Vancouver to accept the award in person because she was again battling the effects of her thyroid/lymphatic cancer and doctors didn’t want her to travel.
Throughout all of Kappel-Sather’s difficult days she was grateful that she had her music.
“Even when I am in the hospital,” she said during a 2009 interview, “I am still working on music. There is always something to do in music,” Kappel-Sather said. “I am going to keep going until I can’t.”
From the HT band director
“The percussion instruments from the Class of 1985 donated in Connie Kappel-Sather’s name are appreciated tremendously,” Boillat said after the dedication.
“Previously, we only had a set of two timpani, which is really only appropriate for junior high music, so the addition of a third drum helps with high school music, since that music generally calls for a set of four.
“Connie’s passing is so unfortunate and our hearts go out to her family,” Boillat said. “The fact that her classmates came together to do something like this just amazes me. Connie’s spirit will live on and impact the students of Holy Trinity for many decades to come.”