Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight on Mimmi Fulmer '74

What inspired you to pursue a career in music?

I began taking piano lessons at age 4, and have never wanted to be anything but a musician ever since.  My life in music has taken on different aspects. I changed from an early immersion in piano to voice study in graduate school.  This was partly due to the encouragement and influence of Walter Nollner, Glee Club Director during my undergraduate studies at Princeton.

Who are the greatest influences on you as a musician?

My early piano teachers were hugely influential in fostering a passion and commitment to practicing.  My life was completely changed when I arrived at Princeton, and discovered the world of musical thought centered there.  The incredible support and brilliance of James Randall, Milton Babbitt, Edward Cone, Arthur Mendel, Paul Lansky, Kenneth Levy, Lewis Lockwood, and Peter Westergaard transformed my ideas of what music was and what I might be capable of doing.  In addition, the experience of studying with legendary singers Bethany Beardslee and Jan DeGaetani inspired me to explore new music, and to try to bring some of their creative genius to my work.

Could you describe your most memorable concert experience?

My most memorable concert experience took place in the old Woolworth Music Building, in the somewhat dilapidated recital room.  I was premiering a piece written for me by graduate student Maura Bosch.  The text was from “The Changing Light at Sandover” by American poet James Merrill, and described a scene with him and David Jackson.  Both Merrill and Jackson were there, sitting in the front row, beaming their pleasure and interest.  It was the greatest privilege to sing Merrill’s transcendent words for him, and I was in a state of combined excitement and nerves.

What is your favorite music to play? And to listen to?

I love singing all music.  When I listen to music for pleasure, I tend to put on recordings of concertos, especially piano and violin.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am the editor of a three-volume anthology of Nordic songs, titled “Midnight Sun”, published by Subito Music.  This project, which includes songs from Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, phonetics, translations, recordings of native speakers reciting the texts, and other information, has absorbed much of my time over the last five years.  My goal is to make Nordic songs more accessible to American singers.  As the grand-daughter of immigrants from Finland and Sweden, this anthology is my tribute to a legacy of beauty.

I am also writing a book about “Vision and Prayer” by Milton Babbitt.  This piece was the first to combine live vocal performance with synthesized tape accompaniment.  Premiered in 1961, it is an historic landmark.  My book will include a newly engraved and annotated score, notes from Bethany Beardslee about her work on the piece, coaching notes from Bethany, notes from Godfrey Winham, a copy of Babbitt’s unfinished piano-vocal version, and historical background.  As an annotated performer's guide and critical performance edition, it is meant to inspire and help singers learn and perform this iconic piece.

In terms of performance, I am currently singing concerts with the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble, and am  preparing a teaching video of Nordic songs.

Where would you like to be in 10 years' time?

I would like to be running a semi-annual Nordic festival in Madison, and continuing my work on Nordic songs.  I love teaching, and plan to stay in my position as Professor of Voice and Opera at UW-Madison for years to come.

What do you enjoy doing most?

When I’m not absorbed in one musical project or another, I love to read, to cook, and most of all, spend time with my family, especially my new grandson. 

What did your time in the Glee Club teach you? Could you give us a favorite memory?

My time in the Glee Club was essential to guiding my interests in music.  I was in the second class of women at Princeton, and Walter Nollner was levitating with excitement to have women in the Glee Club.  He vigorously encouraged me to take voice lessons, and gave me many solos with the Glee Club. 

Among many wonderful memories, perhaps my favorite is when the Harvard Glee Club said they would not allow women from the Princeton Glee Club to sing the Harvard alma mater on their stage as part of the Football Concerts.  Walter consulted with the women in the Glee Club, and then replied to Harvard that it was all of us or none of us singing with the Harvard Glee Club.  The next time around, all of us did indeed sing the alma maters.  Change is brought about by both large and small actions, and Walter took a stand that changed things for the better.