Industry Leaders and The Ash Family Announce Creation of The Bernice Ash Memorial Award

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Bernice Ash Memorial fund

Industry leaders Fred and Dinah Gretsch, Jerry Ash and members of the Ash Family and The NAMM Foundation are announcing the creation of the Bernice Ash Memorial Award. The award honors the remarkable life and legacy of Bernice Ash, a music retail visionary who spearheaded the expansion of the Sam Ash family-owned music stores, broadening inventory for the chain across multiple new categories.

The idea for the award was led by Fred and Dinah Gretsch, who, to start the fund, offered a generous donation of $50,000, matched by Jerry Ash and donations from the Ash Family, Larry Morton of Hal Leonard, and other industry supporters. Fred Gretsch expressed that the long, shared history between the two families inspired the donation: “Dinah and I have worked in the music business for an amazing 98 years together. Bernice and Jerry Ash have that number beaten by a mile. What terrific mentors they are to the Gretsch family and to the music industry as a whole.”

Jerry Ash says, “This is so wonderful, so wonderful!" During the announcement on Believe TV at Believe in Music week he shared, “To Fred and Dinah, what you have done, touches my heart so deeply. My family and the Gretsch family have a long-long history together.” Sammy Ash also expressed his gratitude: “From the Ash family to the Gretsch family and the whole industry in general, we thank you so much for this initiative; we will not let you down. My mom is probably looking down on us with a huge smile.”

Larry Morton reflects: “All of us at Hal Leonard are grateful to Bernice for her amazing guidance and perspective on what musicians, teachers and students needed in music publications.  She had the instincts of a natural-born music publisher and she was driven by wanting to have beautiful sheet music available for anyone to play, no matter their level.  More than that, however, she treated every one of us as a family and gave of her time and love generously.  My very first memories at Hal Leonard are of working with Bernice and being in awe of her passion for music and people.  We're honored to support the NAMM Foundation Scholarship program in her name.”

Bernice passed away on December 1, 2020 at the age of 90, leaving a loving family, staff and grateful industry that will carry on her legacy. She began working at the Sam Ash Music Store in New York City in 1947, one year before marrying the founder’s eldest son, Jerry. Bernice and Jerry continued the tradition of keeping the retail store in the Ash family. Bernice is widely recognized as one of the pioneers of the development of the sheet music department, which included purchasing and inventory. As the head of sheet music for all of the Sam Ash locations, Bernice designed methods and procedures that resulted in great working relationships with the publishers as well as many satisfied customers.

To continue her commitment to excellence in the industry, the award will annually recognize one or two award winners each year with a one-time grant in the amount of $5,000 for use in continued college-level or trade-related studies and a travel stipend to attend The NAMM Show in Anaheim, California. Recipients will also receive a one-year mentorship through the NAMM Young Professionals organization.

To be considered, award applicants must be current employees of a NAMM Member company, nominated by that company's owner or manager, identified as an up-and-coming industry leader seeking further professional development to enhance their career and service to the industry. The inaugural award application will open June 15 and will close on September 30, 2021.

Tax-deductible donations are gratefully accepted to raise an endowment within the NAMM Foundation that will fund the Bernice Ash Memorial Award for years to come. To donate or to learn more, please visit

“When the NAMM Foundation was established, it was our earnest hope that it could be a means to honor industry leaders like Bernice as beacons of optimism and creativity in music retail,” said Mary Luehrsen, executive director of the NAMM Foundation. “We are honored that her pioneering spirit will live on through the next generations of industry excellence.”