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Culture

Jennifer Athena Galatis: Musician for the Ages

Jennifer Athena Galatis is at the height of her creative powers – a maestro, who is most certainly a product of her times. Galatis has “from the beginning of her career, charted new directions for composing, pushing the boundaries of classical orchestration with the use of electronic instrumentation. Over the last decade, she has been recognized for incorporating computer-generated electronic instruments in combination with a real orchestra for film scoring (www.classiclmatters.com/jennifer_g.htm).” Added to this artist's musical sensibilities is a strong visual component evident in her film compositions and her own artwork. As an incredibly active musician and graphic artist Galatis' collective body work is – even at this moment in time – massive, to say the least. There seems to be no limit to this artist's creative power. Nevertheless, the question remains how well is Galatis known to the general Greek-American public?

In 1972, Galatis was born in Montreal to Greek immigrant parents. The Galatis family returned to Greece when Jennifer was seven years old and it was at that time when Galatis took her first piano lessons with Maria Nikolaidou. For Galatis it was an especially unique relationship, but one that has regrettably passed. As Galatis reports, “In March of 2005 I lost my best friend and mentor Maria Nikolaidou. Maria was my first piano teacher and a mother figure to me. She passed away at the age of 55 suddenly last year, and after her death I started composing The Requiem…My Requiem is a work in progress and I will be adding new parts as they come along. Maria was a very important person in Greece. With my music I try to capture that majestic feeling that she had when she was interacting with people (Requiemsurvey.org).”

While in Greece, Galatis studied classical music at Athens National Conservatory with Professor Gerassimos Kakalis and composition with Yannis Kastrinos. Kastrinos, who proved to be one of her closest mentors, was totally surprised by Galatis' first symphony written at the age of 13. While still at school, her work was performed in many concerts around Athens. In 1988 Galatis graduated from the National Conservatory with a performance and composition degree.

Upon her return to North America Galatis attended and completed her Master's Degree as a pianist at the Juilliard School in New York City with Professor Oxana Yablonskaya (Masters, Piano Interpretation: 1988-1989). After Juillard, she studied privately with Professor Claude Savard at the University of Montreal, and Charles Reiner and Eva Czarnay at McGill University. Since August 1994 Galatis has been the Assistant Director of Lasalle Music Academy and in November 1995 Galatis was appointed Associated Professor of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

Over the course of her career, she has been the recipient of numerous national and international awards in recognition of her achievements as an artist. Among her many accolades Galatis is a Juno nominated composer. For those unfamiliar with the Juno Awards, they “are presented annually to Canadian musical artists and bands to acknowledge their artistic and technical achievements in all aspects of music…The Juno Awards are often referred to as the equivalent of the Grammy Awards given in the United States.” 

Galatis' ongoing musical compositions include numerous trailers, documentaries, TV shows, and a nearly endless series of films. Her classical music works have been featured on CBC radio and Radio Canada. Galatis' rich and deeply nuanced orchestrations are to be heard on a seemingly endless series of musical albums. Chosen at random among her numerous albums one can find: Peter Pan: The New Adventures (2009); The Wright Brothers: Wilbur & Orville Wright (2009); exhibition compositions such as Titanic Music from the Exhibition (2009); Frida Kahlos (Music from the Exhibition) (2010); The Universal Suite (2012); Galatis: The Piano Concertos (2014); Eve (Original Soundtrack) (2018); Tokyo Jazz Preludes (2018) and Namibia Sossusvlei (Africa) (Original Soundtrack) (2018).

These citations are but a tiny fraction of the albums, soundtracks and individual compositions Galatis has issued to date.

As if all this were not enough, Galatis' musical works have been showcased on CBC Radio and Radio Canada. She is Recording Artist with Immersion Music Group in Toronto (since September 2012), Composer with SpyFilms Toronto (since December 2011), and Music Composer with European Southern Observatory in Munich, Germany (since January 2014). Galatis' music is now available on Sony Connect, Rhapsody, and elsewhere. Galatis' music is also readily available on the Internet. I suggest you see and listen to her work on Youtube where one can hear and see quite a number of her individual documentaries as well as being able to listen to her soundscapes.

Now, those of you who may already know of Jennifer Galatis realize that up to now I have basically ignored her wider gifts as a visual artist. Galatis is also a dedicated and once again very productive visual graphic artist. As her entry on the ArtPal website succinctly reports: “Jennifer Athena Galatis is a visual artist filmmaker and composer for media. As a visual artist she creates digital art and original paintings on canvas and on computer. Her style can be classified as Minimalism, Geometric, Modernism, and Photo Realism Portraits (www.ArtPal.com/jennifergala).” Aside from her cinematic creations Galatis has somehow found the time to co-author “a Multimedia Interactive iBook about our planet” titled Biosphere with Terry W. Williams, PhD. Over the years Galatis has also taken to identifying herself as ‘Jennifer Gala.' But I must confess I have not been able to determine when or why this complicated artist uses this nom de plume.

I first became aware of Galatis' music by seeing her 2019 film Gaia. This film is prefaced by three quotes: The announcement: “A film by Jennifer Athena Galatis and Dominique Mueller.” The explanation that, “GAIA from the Ancient Greek…is the personification of the Earth. Gaia is the ancestral mother of all life: the primal Mother Earth goddess.” And then the quote by Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964), “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our own eyes." What follows is a visual and musical presentation showcasing the proof of Nehru's observation. The visuals and the audio soundscapes seen in this film offer everyday evidence in sight and sound as demonstrable proof of this view of what is so dismissively called ‘the everyday.'

It seems to me that the two creators of Gaia are offering visual and musical proof against the everyday media storm of negativity, fear, and the relentless PR subtext of the need for personal obedience to larger forces as the only source for individual safety.

Galatis' and Mueller's joint creative visual and sonic testimony offers living proof of the beauty and daily peace found in everyday life across the planet. It is that common enough effort by artists across the ages to challenge the evidence the few ruling members of Society offer as the daily ‘Reality’ that must be accepted by all. It has long been recognized that it is the artist who not only sees and/or hears that there is a marked difference between the way things appear versus the way things really are – and that these same persons must also reveal these findings to their brethren across the planet. All in all, Jennifer Athena Galatis' ongoing flow of art is a gift to us all.

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