Opera and education have been two callings present in Fadel Friedlander-Fulkerson’s '14 life since she was a child in Louisville, Kentucky. Her passion for music was nurtured by her mother Mitzi Friedlander, an actress and mezzo soprano singer who often sang roles at the Kentucky Opera and took Friedlander-Fulkerson along to performances. At the age of 13 she began an education in music. First there were voice lessons, then a high school diploma from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and finally attended the Manhattan School of Music.
As Friedlander-Fulkerson auditioned around New York City, she worried that her education was not complete because it did not include a bachelor’s degree. Learning about GS and its focus on nontraditional students, she realized she had found the right school to pursue her degree. “I took a test at GS and was accepted!” she said.
At GS in the early 1980s, Friedlander-Fulkerson studied Latin and the classics, what she calls her “extra interests,” while continuing to keep alive her passion for music. Not long after she enrolled, she was looking for a musical score in the Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center and ran into one of her classics professors, Dr. Matthew Santirocco, current Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at NYU, who helped return encourage Friedlander-Fulkerson’s path back to music.
“He heard that I was a singer, and he told me that I would have time to finish at Columbia but that my time as a singer was limited. Thus, I left Columbia and went off to sing,” she said.
Dr. Santirocco’s advice proved true. After years of singing, Friedlander-Fulkerson had to give it up due to a vocal injury, though she did not return to GS immediately. Instead she began a career in radio, hosting educational programs about music in Louisville and Oberlin, Ohio, as well as appearing annually on the Metropolitan Opera Radio Broadcast Quiz.
It was after she moved to Oberlin for her husband’s job at Oberlin College Conservatory that she decided to pursue her second calling: education. She re-applied to GS and was accepted. At GS she picked up right where she left off, even taking a class with a professor she had studied under 30 years before. Friedlander-Fulkerson graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in ancient studies.
Friedlander-Fulkerson’s next goal was to pursue a law degree, an interest partly influenced by her father who was a lawyer and involved in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
“After graduation, I took the plunge, and hoped I might be accepted into a law school, even though I was 59 years old,” she said. Her persistence paid off, and she was accepted to the New York Law School on a scholarship where she will proudly become the most senior freshman of this year’s incoming class.
“My motto is never give up. I love Columbia, and without GS much of my life both in opera and academe would never have been possible,” said Friedlander-Fulkerson, who will start classes this August.