Queen of 'GRIT': Amelia Fulmer and the Flagler Auditorium's giving spirit

Fulmer believes that the arts teach students plenty of lessons for life: guts, resilience, initiative, tenacity.

Amelia Fulmer was a teacher for 31 years and has been at the director of the Flagler Auditorium since 2019. Photo by Brian McMillan
Amelia Fulmer was a teacher for 31 years and has been at the director of the Flagler Auditorium since 2019. Photo by Brian McMillan
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Amelia Fulmer was a music teacher for 31 years in Flagler Schools before she saw an opportunity: The Flagler Auditorium, which was an integral part of her students' art experience during her teaching her career, was hiring a new director. She thought that if she could make the transition, she could be an even stronger advocate for all the arts in Flagler Schools and the community. She spoke with the Observer on Dec. 3 about what's changed in teaching, about creating a playlist to learn visiting performers' music, and how and why to get your kids excited about the arts.


With all you do for the Auditorium, do you ever actually get to watch the shows?

I usually watch the shows. And if I'm lucky, sometimes I get to watch the sound checks in the rehearsals. I do so much studying for the shows. We have Darlene Love, so I've been studying all the movies she's been in and I’m learning her music and I have her on my playlist and when I go for my walks in the morning, I'm learning all the words to the songs. That way I’ll enjoy it a lot better when they come. (For Love tickets, click here.)


On Dec. 11, Darlene Love, a Grammy-winner and Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer, is performing. Why is this show a big deal for the Auditorium?

Darlene Love, being a headliner, is fairly expensive. And she also requires a lot of backline, which means a lot of instruments that we have to rent in this Christmas show. She wants big bells and chimes. She's bringing 16 performers, her full band, and she has backup singers that really know what they're doing. Darlene Love was a backup singer for Elvis and Sam Cooke, and she sang with Cher, she sang with Bette Midler, she sang with Bruce Springsteen. Everybody in her entourage is perfect, and they're going to bring it; they wouldn't be there if they weren't fantastic.


You’ve been involved in schools for decades. What has changed since you were a new teacher?

Communication is not what it used to be. I think it's very difficult for teachers to find the time to build relationships with parents, because teachers are busier than they used to be. You have a lot of parents that work two jobs and they don't have time to get to know the teacher and trust that person and know that they're going to do the right thing by your kid.


What does it mean to you to see Flagler alumni succeed in the professional arts world?

It means a lot, but I have to say, it means more for me that they become a successful adult and that they know how to work with other people.

They use their stage presence for whatever career they're going into. I can go on and on about how arts create workplace skills.

In the arts, you have to have guts.

You've got to be resilient, because you're not always going to get the part you want.

You have to show initiative: You got to go and get your music, close the door, put down your phone and learn your music.

And you have to have tenacity: stay at it all the time.

I like to call it GRIT: guts, resilience, initiative and tenacity.

Music teaches leadership. It teaches students how to work with each other, and that's what they're going to need in their jobs.

It teaches how to be sensitive with each other. Because in music, somebody plays a long or wrong note, and you’ve got to be there to tell them, but you’ve got to know how to be sensitive. You have to be honest, but you have to be sensitive.


What was your relationship with art as a high school student, and what is your relationship with art now?

I taught children when I was in fifth grade. When I was in high school, I taught fifth grade choir at my church. So I started very young teaching. I played the piano in high school for my high school choir, and I even rode with my high school teacher to the middle school to play the piano for the middle school kids. So I was teaching choir back when I was 14.

Once you get in there and you start performing, it's very much the same as it's always been. And I still love it.


If someone is typically at home on the weekends, watching Netflix, what’s your pitch to get them off the couch and to the Auditorium for a show?

There's nothing like a performer performing a piece of music or something they truly believe in and working to try to bring you in, and they bear their soul to you.

You don't feel that when you're watching television.

And it's also a great way to see your friends.


The Auditorium’s events sometimes double as fundraisers for community causes. Why do you feel that’s important?

The original bylaws of the Flagler Auditorium say our purpose is to be an advocate for the community. The arts serve the people of Flagler County — it's not the other way around. We don't say, “The county needs to spend more on the arts.” We should say, “How can the arts serve the county right now?”


What’s your advice to parents who might struggle to get their children interested in art?

I think you have to find opportunities; sadly, they don't always find you. You need to think about what you enjoyed as a child; your child might enjoy that. And if they don't, you find something else.

"That's a mistake people make: They get their kids involved in music or art, and they don't struggle to get them through that valley, so they can get to the concert and get to the mountaintop experience."


If you said, “Well, my son tried violin and didn't like it,” well, did you get past that bad part? Did you get him through the dip and get them to the concert? Because the concert is the mountaintop. That's a mistake people make: They get their kids involved in music or art, and they don't struggle to get them through that valley, so they can get to the concert and get to the mountaintop experience.


What’s your vision for the Auditorium’s future?

Well, I hope that it's still existing the way it is now and 1991 when it opened 30 years ago. I don't know if they thought it would have accomplished what it’s accomplished now. So I have to believe that we will continue to raise children in the arts and be a place where we bring national tours and our children can succeed not just in the art, but they can succeed in what the arts can bring to their lives. And we continue to make creative connections to each other.



Brian McMillan

Brian McMillan and his wife, Hailey, bought the Observer in 2023. Before taking on his role as publisher, Brian was the editor from 2010 to 2022, winning numerous awards for his column writing, photography and journalism, from the Florida Press Association.


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