Major: Studio Art
Residence: Brooklyn, NY
Deceased: July, 2016
Barry Wilson '59
Djallal Yahia '13
Nina Frenkel was cool.
It was Wednesday and my band was slated to play its first real show on Friday. But the bassist hadn’t showed up, and when I called his dorm room his roommate said he had left town for several days. In a panic I started calling everyone I could think of. This being before the age of cell phones or even voice mail, I wasn’t having much luck until someone suggested I call Nina.
“So this might sound really crazy, but we’re playing at the Cave on Friday and our bassist has flaked out on us. If you’re willing we could find a time...”
“I’ll be right over.”
“Yep, see you in a few!”
She arrived with her acoustic-electric bass guitar and her unflappable style. She was approximately ten times cooler than the rest of us put together. With her foot up on a chair she nailed down the bass line like a master carpenter. It turned out she had a indie rock pedigree — she had studied bass with James McNew, maybe? Perhaps that explained why our VU, Luna, and Yo La Tengo covers sounded so much better once she arrived.
She was also warm, funny, down to earth, and an undeniably talented visual artist, which of course became her career. She made time for us geeky sophomores (she being a worldly senior) practicing each night until the performance — which went great. She recruited her friend Denise to sing, since none of the band members at that point could carry a tune. She and Denise stayed on the for the rest of the year, practicing and playing together throughout.
She may have saved the band, but she did it all in such an offhand way, with such aplomb, with such humor and matter-of-factness, that it never seemed like a big thing.
Nina was a huge fan of Johnathan Richman, and opened my ears to his music. I wish I remember the exact words she used to describe him, but it was something like “he’s the poet of self-esteem” and it fit. Listening to Johnathan Richman makes me feel similar to how I felt hanging out with Nina – here’s someone who really likes themselves but doesn’t take themselves too seriously, and I could bask in that glow, seeing that I could feel that way about myself too.
Very saddened to have just learned of Nina's passing. Although we weren't in touch much after college, she was a close friend while there, one that I dearly treasured. I can think of no sweeter, gentler soul that I've ever come across in my lifetime. I can still recall so clearly how that soul felt to be nearby, walking in the Arb or sitting in Sayles. Just seems so unfair. Rest well, Nina. I know you were dearly loved while you were here, and by everyone who came across your path in their lifetime.