Nordling provides support for scholarships, Swarthout Recital Hall

Barbara Nordling, of Lawrence, Kan., is among University of Kansas alumni and friends stepping up to provide support for the renovation of Swarthout Recital Hall.

“When Dean Walzel came to KU and said he wanted to renovate Swarthout, he won my heart right then.”

Swarthout Recital Hall has been the principal performance venue for students, faculty and visiting artists at the KU School of Music since 1957. After a half-century of intensive use, the hall is in dire need of improvement. In the 350-seat audience area, chairs are visibly worn, and some are broken. The hall’s audiovisual equipment, lighting and acoustical materials are obsolete. The estimated cost of the planned renovation and upgrades is $1.5 million.

Through the years, Nordling has attended numerous performances in Swarthout Recital Hall. “I knew the hall was due for an update,” she said. “When Dean Walzel came to KU and said he wanted to renovate Swarthout, he won my heart right then.”

Nordling and her late husband, Bernie, retired in Lawrence in the late 1990s after spending their married life in Hugoton, Kan., where he practiced law. Bernie graduated from the KU School of Law in 1949, and their five children later graduated from KU.

After her husband died in 2005, Nordling continued their tradition of supporting various areas across KU, including a music scholarship for KU students from western Kansas. “We have a wealth of talented kids out there,” she said.

One of the first recipients of the Barbara Nordling Music Scholarship was Nick Weiser, who grew up in Dighton, Kan., where at the age of 5, he began playing on an old piano in his father’s bar. After graduating from KU, Nick went on to the Eastman School of Music, where he plans to graduate this spring with a doctorate of musical arts in jazz and contemporary media.

Nordling looks forward to seeing what the future will bring for one of her current scholarship recipients, Breanna Ellison, a KU senior from Ellis, Kan.

“Bernie and I always wanted our gifts for KU to benefit students in as direct a way as possible,” said Nordling. “In my mind, this gift to help improve Swarthout is more than a gift to improve a building. It’s a gift to help students be the best that they can be — this is to support the kids that I support.” 

Barbara Nordling