In Memoriam: Wendy Zaro-Mullins
The School of Music is deeply saddened by the passing of Associate Professor of Voice Wendy Zaro-Mullins, a beloved and impactful member of our voice faculty. An internationally-acclaimed soprano, she was an exceptionally dedicated teacher, and an outstanding colleague. This loss will be very keenly felt by all who knew her. Wendy Zaro-Mullins passed away on the afternoon of October 7, 2022, after a long illness.
A native of the California Bay Area of San Francisco, Zaro-Mullins earned her bachelor and master’s degrees from the University of Southern California. She later earned her doctorate from the University of Oregon in vocal performance and pedagogy.
Her early vocal career transcended the genres of opera and musical theater. She held prominent credits with the San Francisco Opera and Eugene Opera, and performed featured roles in venues including the Eugene Theatre, Coachlight Dinner Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, and Newport Music Festival. She also had extensive work as a soprano soloist with the St. Paul Episcopal Cathedral of Los Angeles; First Baptist Church of Los Angeles;Temple Emanuel in Westwood, CA; St. Paul Episcopal in the Village, New York; and St. Olaf Catholic Church in Minneapolis.
An important highlight of her career included a strong dedication to her teaching studio. Zaro-Mullins fully enjoyed sharing her expertise and performance experiences with her students. She always relished the discovery of each unique voice, focusing on developing their true natural instrument. Students were often encouraged to take part in community service projects, and learn about the wider vocal community around them.
"Wendy was a larger than life personality." Former student and current music library staff member Bill Pederson remembered. "She understood and modeled the humanity in singing, and the interconnectivity of our bodies, emotions, and voice. Anyone who met her was embraced by her ample spirit. I was lucky to call her a teacher, colleague and most of all, a friend."
Student Madison Holtze said "It’s difficult to encapsulate my relationship with Wendy in just a few words. She was my teacher for 8 years- through two degrees and a lot of life changes. She was the reason I went to the U of MN in the first place, and the reason I stayed for my master’s degree. She believed in me when I was 17 years old and became my mentor, teacher and second mom in undergrad. Eventually she also became a good friend. She helped me to become not just a better musician but a better human being. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her. And I truly miss her terribly."
Another student, Kristin Newbegin, is proud to pass on Zaro-Mullins' legacy in her own career. "Wendy was an integral part of my development as a young artist and future educator. Wendy was one of the most patient, generous and supportive professors that I have had the pleasure of working with. If it weren't for her encouragement and faith in my abilities I would not have pursued a career as a professional vocalist and educator. I enter my voice studio every day thinking of the kindness and wisdom she imparted on me and try to pass that on to future musicians and teachers. The music world needs more kindness and understanding."
Zaro-Mullins was a longtime member of the School of Music faculty, earning the respect and admiration of those who had the pleasure of working with her.
“She was a supporter of mine from the moment I came on campus, which is not always a given in the voice teacher/choir director dynamic!” reflected Matthew Mehaffey, Associate Director of Choral Activities. “She was an outstanding technician and vocal pedagogue who had the rare ability to teach rank amateurs and professionals with the same clarity and passion.”
Vocal colleague John DeHaan noted “The School of Music and the Voice Division has lost a great light and joyful soul. Wendy was a strong and firm presence in Ferguson Hall for over two decades. She was a gifted and generous teacher to all of her voice students, as well as a skillful and innovative classroom instructor. Her students, who now inhabit the entire world, are passing on the vocal wisdom she imparted to them during their time at University of Minnesota. She was a fun, intelligent and positive colleague who was gifted with a clear and innovative vision and a sense of courageous understanding as we navigated the ever changing landscape of higher education. I remember stopping by her studio, sticking my head in the door and saying, ‘Just checking in, Wendy.’ To this she greeted me with a big warm smile that lit up the room. This is what I will miss. Her smile will never be forgotten by all who knew and loved Wendy Zaro-Mullins.”
In addition to the School of Music, Zaro-Mullins held affiliate artist positions on the faculties of University of Oregon, Oregon State, Lane Community College in Eugene, North Central University in Minneapolis,St. Olaf College, and Normandale Community College.
Later in her career, Zaro-Mullins enjoyed working within the jazz genre, producing a CD entitled “Fly Home Little Heart” with the Laura Caviani Trio. She earned accolades for her artistry, including appearances on KBEM FM Jazz 88.5, Maryann Sullivan Show, and NPR’s All Things Considered.
The School of Music thanks Wendy Zaro-Mullins for her inspiring contributions to the faculty and the wider music community across the country.