Tommy Nehls

Normandale Alumnus Tommy Nehls

On August 21, 1965, Tommy Nehls went to Bloomington's legendary Metropolitan Stadium to see The Beatles perform. From that point on, he knew he wanted to play and compose music.

Nehls was looking for a school to pursue his music interests, and he had close friends who had told him great things about Normandale.

He enrolled, and studied under instructors Carlo Minnetti, Ona Pinsonneault, Elliot Fine and David Doctor.

Each instructor brought different elements which helped him.

"Ona got down to the 'nuts and bolts' of music, which I still use every day," Nehls said. "David taught music history, and really widened everyone's musical perspective. Carlo demanded serious performance and was a good motivator. Elliot was an applied percussion instructor who related many current ideas on drumming."

Nehls went on to get a bachelor's degree in Music Performance from University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

He moved to Reno, Nevada and entered the lounge band scene, eventually joining a group with George Rock (lead singer for Spike Jones), Ed Easton (saxophonist with Harry James) and the band's leader Freddy Powers (who became the main songwriter for Merle Haggard).

In the 1990s Nehls achieved greater success, composing for Disney, the Weather Channel, PBS and (award-winning music for) the Miami Heat basketball organization, among others. Nowadays he fronts the Tommy Nehls Trio, which can be heard on satellite and cable. With all of his success, Nehls still appreciates all that he received at Normandale.

"The Concert Band was known for its high performance," he says. "Class sizes were also perfect, and you got one-on-one time with the instructors which made for a great environment."