Music, memories shared at jam session held to honor the life of drummer killed in the Netherlands

December 17, 2018 10:23 PM

If 21-year-old Sarah Papenheim was in town from her studies abroad in the Netherlands and if it was Monday night, she would be at Shaw's Bar and Grill in northeast Minneapolis.

The bar was known for its weekly jam session featuring local musicians and bands.  

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Papenheim, from Andover, played the drums. She started playing in the jazz and blues scene as a teenager. Over the years, she practiced and performed at Shaw's so often, everyone got to know her and her skills. That includes Ruthe Kay, who drove down from Duluth on Monday to sing songs that remind her of Papenheim.

"We met through music, we connected through music," she said. "That's all she loved to do, it's what Sarah breathed and lived for."

Papenheim was taking classes at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. She was found stabbed to death in her apartment not far from the school.

Her 23-year-old roommate, identified as Joel Schelling, was arrested. 

On the stage was a drum set with Papenheim's photo and a sign that read, 'Sarah Papenheim's Cocktail Jam.'  The bar renamed the event to honor 'Happy Paps' or 'Drummer Girl,' as she was known in the blues scene. 

On Monday night, there was music as always, but this time it was a musical memorial. Various bands and musicians took the stage and the bluesy tone represented what the player's feelings sound like.


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"Devastation, tragic loss," said Jason Medeiros, a musician who played with Papenheim. "She was going to do things with her life and now she's gone."

When word spread of Papenheim's death, hearts broke among the blues and jazz musicians in Minneapolis. That's why they organized the memorial.

"It's the feeling and memories that come with music to help us grieve," Kay said.

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Beth McDonough

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