Sister Rose Immacula Brennan devoted her life to God, but it was her love of music that will live on. At age 83, Sister Rose died Wednesday after complications from treatment for cancer.
For almost a quarter-century as a director and voice teacher at St. Joseph's School of Music in St. Paul, Sister Rose worked to bring music into thousands of students' lives. From toddlers to senior citizens, Sister Rose welcomed people from all walks of life into one of the Twin Cities' largest music schools. She would do anything to ensure the school's success — answering phones, recruiting and teaching students, balancing the budget and leading concerts.
"Sister Rose was the music school," said Laurie Dehmlow, whom Sister Rose hired 17 years ago as a vocal teacher at St. Joseph's School of Music. "I was amazed at how much she accomplished. She was a tiny woman with a very large vision." Sister Rose was barely 5 feet tall and weighed less than 100 pounds.
The school, where almost 800 students are enrolled, traces its beginnings to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet nearly 120 years ago. But as the number of students outgrew its former Summit Avenue location, Sister Rose found the current space on the third floor of the Bigelow Building at University Avenue and Syndicate Street last year and helped move the entire school. She also negotiated its five-year lease.
"Her faith was unbelievable," said John D. Brennan, a nephew living in Coronado, Calif. "She was a very upbeat person. She wasn't a complainer."
Sister Brennan was born Jan. 30, 1923, in Ellendale, N.D., as Elizabeth Ann Brennan. She was the youngest child in a family of musicians. Before entering the Sisters of St. Joseph, Sister Rose studied chemistry and music at the College of St. Catherine. She also worked as director of vocal music for musicals at Cretin and Derham Hall high schools in the 1960s, directing students in numerous Broadway shows.
While Sister Rose devoted her life to music education, she also maintained a separate life devoted to her religion and activism.
During Sister Rose's last days at Bethany Convent in St. Paul, a cadre of friends and former students formed a constant stream in and out of her room, said Sister Marie Shaun, a close friend and assistant director at the music school. [...snip] Pioneer Press