Viola opens door to Juilliard for young musician

The road from Red Deer to the famed Juilliard School of music in New York City has been an incredible journey for Stephanie Galipeau.

The road from Red Deer to the famed Juilliard School of music in New York City has been an incredible journey for Stephanie Galipeau.

Like most kids, Galipeau hated practising the violin when she started at age nine.

It wasn’t until she could coax rich sounds out of the violin — and later viola — that she enjoyed playing enough to practise for hours at a time.

Galipeau’s efforts to put her own emotions into the music she creates have paid off. The 19-year-old was among the elite seven percent of applicants to be accepted into the world-famous Juilliard School this fall.

“I was pretty excited,” said Galipeau, who received her acceptance email last spring.

The Red Deer native, who was admitted to the $35,000-a-year program on a partial scholarship, recently moved into residence at Juilliard. Although her family was a little nervous about her relocation to New York City, there’s no reason for worry, she said, since the school is teeming with fellow music students from all over the world.

So far, Galipeau has met young people from New Zealand, France, Ireland, Norway and all over Asia.

She’s also taken orientation trips to some of New York’s tourist sites.

“There’s so much vitality in this city. I love how it feels like you’re in a really amazing city that’s reeking of culture and energy,” said the graduate of Notre Dame High School. Juilliard is near the Lincoln Centre, and students will have opportunities to play in concerts at Carnegie Hall.

The school is also a hub for theatre and dance training, and Galipeau said she’s glad to be able to draw inspiration from various arts disciplines. “The best thing is being totally immersed in an atmosphere where everyone is totally obsessed with what they are doing,” she said.

While growing up in Red Deer, she was first exposed to symphonic instruments through the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra’s educational outreach program in schools. “I saw a string quartet and I became mesmerized. I loved the sound.”

No one else in her family played an instrument, but Galipeau surprised her parents by saying she wanted to try the violin.

Although practising was initially “a chore,” she now considers her first music teacher, Louise Stuppard, very encouraging and influential.

Galipeau went on to learn from Naomi Delafield in Lacombe, and after high school, studied at the Victoria Conservatory of Music on Vancouver Island, where she switched to the deeper, richer sounding viola.

Galipeau said her Victoria instructor, Michael van der Sloot, was very supportive of her decision to try to continue her studies at Juilliard.

In the lead up to her audition, Galipeau practised for four-and-a-half hours a day. “What got me really interested in the instrument was the realization that (the music) could become expressive of what I am, instead of just being what I do.”

Whenever the Central Alberta teenager gets a break from classes, she takes stock of her good fortune. “I’m so excited about the opportunity I have here. I feel so blessed to be able to experience this.”

She hopes that other Central Alberta kids will realize that achieving big dreams is possible with enough passion, dedication and hard work.