Penn historian and flutist shares her ‘sweet sound’ with community

PERFORMANCE/Mimi Stillman is working on a Ph.D. in history, but her true passion is music. She founded the Dolce Suono Chamber Music Concert Series last year.

Renowned flutist Mimi Stillman is passionate about music—and about sharing the music she loves with a wider audience.

Mimi Stillman

Mimi Stillman

That's why the Penn Ph.D. student founded the Dolce Suono Chamber Music Concert Series, now in its second season. Stillman says her goal in starting the concert series is to break down barriers between musicians and the audience. To that end, the musicians explain to their audiences why certain pieces were chosen for a night's program, providing a context for the music. The series also features talks by guest composers and "Meet the Artist" receptions. To spread the word even further, Stillman takes her skills as a performer and music educator to the Penn Alexander School for an outreach program that introduces young children to classical music.

Stillman is no stranger to performance. When she was just 12 she was admitted to Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music as the youngest wind player in its history. She's played concert halls around the United States, Europe and Mexico, has taught master classes at universities and flute societies and released a CD, "MIMI," last year. In fact, she was working as a fulltime soloist and teacher after graduating from Curtis in 1999, but missed studying history, her other passion. So, she came to Penn for her Master's and was hooked. She's now a Ph.D. candidate in history (her specialty is Early Modern European history) and she's done everything but complete her dissertation. As for the future, Stillman says she'd love to pursue careers in both history and music. "Being at Penn has opened so many worlds to me in history and learning about the world."

Dolce Suono (which means "sweet sound") performs three remaining concerts at Penn in its 2006-7 season. First up on Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Houston Hall is "Toasting Mozart," in celebration of the composer's 250th birthday and featuring selections by Debussy, Malcolm Arnold, Jennifer Higdon and, of course, Mozart himself. "The stimulating part of being artistic director is I plan the whole series in advance," says Stillman. Part of her job is to come up with themes and recruit musicians for each performance—from Philadelphia Orchestra cellist Yumi Kendall to guitarist Allen Krantz from Temple University. Last year, Stillman devoted a program to "East Meets West," featuring the music of Ravi Shankar. Later this season, Dolce Suono turns its attention to "Metal and Wood" on Jan. 24, 2007 at Van Pelt's Rosenwald Gallery, with selections by Schubert, Schulhoff, Piazzolla, Handel and Dowland; and "Baroque Banquet" in April 2007 at Rosenwald.

New this season are two suburban concerts: On Oct. 29 at the Glencairn Museum, Stillman and pianist Charles Abramovic perform selections from Bach, Martinu, Bartok, Doppler and Enesco; and on Nov. 5 at the Bala Cynwyd Library, Stillman and three other musicians perform the music of Mozart, Reger, Devienne and Gershwin. All performances are free and open to the public. For more information on the Dolce Suono Chamber Music Concert Series, send an email to: DolceSuonoSeries@aol.com.

Originally published on October 19, 2006