Many people change careers during their lifetime, leaving the old for the new. But one northern Illinois designer has found ways to intertwine many of her passions.
by Mim Eichmann the artistic direction has evolved over the years.
She grew up in the Washington DC area where she studied ballet as a child. She said Eugene Collins and his wife Andrea Vodehnal taught at her school and their inspiration led her to focus on dance as a profession.
“But I just thought, okay, ‘I really think I’d like to pursue this,'” she said, “because it involves the music and your body moving to the beat of the music , and you know, air, space and time.'”
She originally wanted to go to Julliard but said her parents thought she was too young. For her, Butler University seemed like the next best option. So she left her home country and settled in the Midwest.
Eichmann was successful in her career as a dancer and used her knowledge to teach others. She was artistic director of the Midwest Ballet Theater in the Chicago area and director of the Midwest Ballet Academy. Then she realized it was time for her to change direction.
“Working with high school girls, almost exclusively girls, I had a few male students,” she added, “you get to that point where you’re like, ‘Okay, I just would like to do something else. . And that’s when I came back to the folk scene.
As a child, she sang and wanted to get back to music. So, in 2005, she started playing the hammer dulcimer. She said she soon realized how natural it was for her.
“Because you really have to memorize everything,” Eichmann said. “And you really memorize it in patterns, which as a dancer, things work in patterns, rather than memorizing notes, you necessarily know or lyrics. As everyone knows, I suck at memorizing lyrics.
The same year she started with dulcimer lessons, she joined other musicians to form the band Trillium.
Movement and music were not the only art forms Eichmann possessed.
She went to Butler University for dancing but ended up getting attached to something else.
“I had an amazing American author teacher that I had for 105 years of English. And then it was back to the Dark Ages, practically,” she joked. “But he was the one who really got me interested in women writers.”
Eichmann previously wrote poetry and song lyrics. But this exposure to women writers of the 1900s piqued her interest, and she began to research.
“I started collecting diaries, letters and news, again, from women who were frontier women from 1880 to around 1905, 1910,” she said. “And I got really interested in what these women would write. Most of them have glossed over all the difficulties they have experienced.
After delving into this genre, another evolution took place for Eichmann.
In 2017 she finished writing her first book, ‘A Sparrow Alone’, which is set in the 1890s. It was published in April last year. She also wrote a sequel, “Muskrat Ramble” which was released earlier this year.
Eichmann explained that all of his creative endeavors run parallel to each other.
She said these things made her seem indecisive, but her original goal was to be a dancer.
“And it automatically had to be first, no matter what else I wanted to do,” she explained. “You know, the other passions, shall we say, have been worked on the back burner and never given up, admittedly. But, uh, you know, that focus had to be in place.
She said she decided to teach to help pay the bills because a lot of dance companies had a small budget.
Eichmann no longer dances but she continues to juggle the band, writing children’s music and creative writing. She said the pandemic put the band on hiatus, but they recently recorded a performance for the next one. Gebhard Woods Dulcimer and Traditional Music Festival.
Eichmann said she was able to balance all of these facets of the arts as they were interests she carried with her from childhood. She explained that a lot of people let their creative lines cross.
“People who are, you know, painters or sculptors, and who are also musicians. I mean, there’s a lot of overlap,” she said.
Eichmann wants young people to realize that life changes and that it is difficult to decide on a specific path. So, she said, they should plan but not be afraid to shift their strategy as needed.
- Yvonne Boose is currently a body member of Report for America, an initiative of Project GroundTruth. It’s a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.