Nancy Gustafson '78

Nancy Gustafson '78

Opera singer
Self-designed major:
Music and education
MMUS, Northwestern University

Lyric soprano Nancy J. Gustafson has sung on the world's greatest stages with such operatic stars as Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, José Carreras, and Joan Sutherland. A typical season includes performances at the Bavarian State Opera, the Vienna State Opera, the Paris Opera, La Scala, Glyndebourne, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Metropolitan Opera.

Nancy credits her ability to weather the demands of her career, in part, to Mount Holyoke. "When you're dealing with an operatic career, you must learn and memorize music very quickly in several languages. People are amazed at how quickly I learn a role." One Christmas in Rome, Nancy had to learn the eighty-eight-page title role of Dvorak's Rusalka, in Czech, in four days. "I did twenty-two pages a day! Mount Holyoke really prepares the analytical mind. It teaches you how to study, analyze, concentrate, how to get things done." Though her career sends her flying all over the world, Nancy still stays in touch with music professors Melinda Spratlan and Catharine Melhorn, often through email.

Though Nancy chose Mount Holyoke for its academic reputation--and not because it's a women's college--she has come to believe that "women's education is relevant and will forever be important. We were firmly taught and firmly believed, 'I can do anything as a woman, and Mount Holyoke is there to support me.' There are very few moments in life when you can have that experience."

For Nancy, one of the College's greatest benefits is "that a Mount Holyoke education doesn't end at graduation. All over the world there's a network of alumnae who are like a family that will never let you down. When I'm on the road, it's wonderful to have a way to meet people who aren't musicians. I'm proud to say I haven't met a Mount Holyoke woman I don't adore. They're bright, capable, interesting, interested in life, and in doing something with this life. Once, when I went to perform in Tokyo for the first time, I was looking for a gym, because I like to work out. I didn't know anyone. I didn't know the language. So I called the Alumnae Office and got the name of alums in Japan. I faxed one of them saying, 'I know you don't know me, but would you help me out?' She was wonderful, and three years later, we're still friends. I know so many Mount Holyoke alumnae, an Italian tenor friend of mine calls it 'the Mount Holyoke mafia!'"

Article courtesy of:  10 Brilliant Reasons to Choose Mount Holyoke College.