In one of the best music schools in the nation, it is not easy to stand out among hundreds of talented musicians. But with her expertise in both education and performing, senior soprano vocalist Elena Galvan has done just that.
A trumpet correctly scales Wynton Marsalis’ never-ending “Flight of the Bumblebee.” A cellist perfects a wiry vibrato for a quartet performance. A woman’s voice rises above the cluster of instruments, escalating to a heavenly falsetto.
“She just has immense talent,” School of Music Dean Gregory Woodward said. “It’s really unusually advanced and mature for an undergraduate. She is just a little ahead of the curve — exquisitely trained in voice production.”
But along with any kind of talent, an individual must work hard to get the most out of it. It is something Galvan’s father, Michael Galvan, professor of music performance at the college, said has made an impact.
“She works incredibly hard,” he said. “We are lucky as musicians that we get to have as our profession something as inherently enjoyable as music that makes us want to work hard.”
By scheduling extra practice time as if it was a class in her daily schedule, Galvan, a music education and performance double major, brings dedication to a whole new level. But she said she also credits her talent and drive to strong genes, as both her mother and father are musicians and instructors at Ithaca College. Her mother, Janet Galvan, is a choral director, while her father is a clarinet professor. With that kind of background, it is hard to imagine Galvan growing up with another love.
And that passion has paid off, as her list of accolades is voluminous and extends from winning vocal competitions to performing in the Ithaca College Opera Monteverdi’s “Orfeo,” all of which are helping Galvan build her ever-growing résumé.
“A lot of stuff has been happening in the past year that’s getting recognized by the music school,” she said.
Galvan has stood out from others since her early days of performing. She started singing in choirs at the age of 5 and participated in Ithaca Children’s Choir for much of her childhood. Her interest in music education and performance grew from that experience, as she realized that she needed to know how to perform well in order to teach effectively.
“My big theory about vocal music and music education is that if you’re not a good musician or a good performer, how can you teach others to be?” Galvan said.
Galvan’s focus on performance reflects that philosophy, and her vocal gift does not hurt either. Her thirst to be an educator is derived from a drive to put education back where she believes it belongs.
“Education is really interesting,” she said. “It’s something that’s not hugely respected all the time — that’s where the world should be focusing.”
Besides music, Galvan has another passion: traveling. She said through traveling, she is able to extend her knowledge of music.
“I love going to other countries,” she said. “The thing about music that I love so much is that it’s so intertwined. It’s a universal language, and that’s why I love traveling.”
Galvan received exposure to music at a young age when she started traveling to countries including Greece, Germany and Italy. During summers, Galvan was able to sit in on workshops and meet musicians of European conservatories.
Galvan has traveled to and lived in different places all over the world. Last summer, she stayed in a tiny town in Italy, where the only language spoken was Italian. By living in places like that instead of commercialized and tourist-laden, big European cities, Galvan has grown an appreciation for cultures far beyond the borders of Ithaca. It is something her mother appreciates too.
“All of these experiences help prepare her for new and different situations in life,” her mother said.
It is just another part of Galvan who hopes to bring all of those musical aspects of her life to graduate school after graduation.
“I’m going to work somewhere hopefully music-related or a vocal studio while I’m applying to grad school for opera performance,” she said. “That’s as far as I’m looking right now.”