Published: Aug. 15, 2019 By

Anne Culver and her brother Roger MitchellAnne Culver always knew music would be a part of her life, even as a child growing up near the Adirondack High Peaks of New York.

“My mother used to hear me humming in time with recordings, so she knew I had an ear,” Culver says. “Almost from the beginning, music was always there.”

It was always there, but it was always a bit unclear what role it would take. Culver—pictured here with her brother and fellow CU Boulder alum Roger Mitchall (BA ’59)—played the piano, but she also sang and had a keen interest in music theory and history. But whether she was singing or sitting at the piano, one thing was clear by the time she came to the College of Music as a piano performance major in 1955: She liked to practice. A lot.

“I felt at that time that I had room and time to grow, so I made a lot of use of the practice rooms. I spent more time there than most of my colleagues.”

That’s why Culver (BM ’59, PhD ’73) was happy to provide support for the new practice rooms being built at Imig—and to name one of them for her late husband, alumnus Richard A. Culver (BME, MME ’50).

The long and winding road

Though she somewhat reluctantly came to Boulder to study music (as a New York native, she originally had her eyes on the big East Coast music programs), Culver quickly found her place at the College of Music. Studying with such well-known former faculty as Storm Bull and Howard Waltz, Culver found a way to feed all of her musical passions as an undergraduate student.

“I loved singing in the choruses—the University and Modern choirs—and in some of the theatrical productions. And I got great training on the piano. I grew a lot there and I was grateful.”

After graduating with her piano degree, Culver went back east for her master’s studies. Again, she ended up on a different path than she anticipated.

“I lived for about five years in New York, teaching at a small school there while trying to start my master’s. Then I went to the Vienna Conservatory to study voice.”

After returning from Europe, Culver took advantage of the now-defunct National Defense Education Act to pursue PhD studies in music theory and music history back at CU Boulder. She got paired with yet another legendary faculty member, Bill Kearns.

“My speciality was 20th-century music. I taught two 20th-century music classes, aesthetics and orchestral literature, while teaching a course on American music at Metro State.”

Returning to CU Boulder was a serendipitous move. Dick Culver, who already had two degrees from the College of Music, enrolled in one of Kerns’ seminar classes with Anne during her PhD studies. He was on sabbatical from his work at South High School in Denver.

“And then we got married in 1971, as I was close to finishing my degree.”

A leader is born

After receiving her PhD, Anne joined Dick in Denver, where she taught music theory and history for several years at Metropolitan State University before taking a job at the University of Denver in 1981. Thus began a prolific career in teaching and administration that carried her just through the new millennium.

“I became the director of the School of Music in 1985, serving until 1988. Then I was assistant dean for arts, humanities and social sciences, then acting dean. After that I went back to teaching at the School of Music until I retired.”

Culver is familiar with facilities issues like the ones the College of Music has been facing: During her time at DU, the School of Music was located in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood—about 10 miles north of the main campus—at the site of the old Colorado Women’s College. She says the distance had its drawbacks, but it was worth it.

“The music and law schools were both up in Park Hill. We were there for quite a while, from when I moved us there in 1985 until 2003 when the Newman Center opened. 

“It was a mixed blessing, but we felt that the quality of the facility was far superior, so we had to do it. If we hadn’t, we may have lost our accreditation. We had to do something.”

Since retiring in 2000, Culver has continued playing music regularly, the grand piano in her living room motivation enough to keep practicing. And now the College of Music alumna is proud to be giving back to her and her husband’s alma mater.

“As an alum, I think the College of Music has done an outstanding job. The people that I worked with had a lot of integrity and I respected the faculty and the staff a lot. I made some lifelong friends there—not to mention I met my husband!”

Anne Culver is one of many in the College of Music extended community who has given generously to help turn our new wing into a home. For more information about the Imig Music Building expansion and to give yourself, visit the project page.