A passion for the viola – not to mention an extraordinary skill – has landed a local young woman the educational opportunity of a lifetime.
Stephanie Galipeau, 19, was accepted into New York City’s Juilliard School this past spring, with a full tuition scholarship for the duration of her studies.
Galipeau studied with local violinist Louise Stuppard from age nine to 16.
Her love for music surfaced early on.
“I remember two years before I started playing violin, I heard the Red Deer Symphony Outreach program,” she explains. “I’m pretty sure Louise was one of the people in the string quartet. I was mesmerized, and I bugged my mom for lessons for two years.”
At last, the opportunity to study with Stuppard came along and Galipeau has never looked back. She credits Stuppard with providing a terrific foundation, and considers her a tremendous musical and personal influence. “It’s wonderful to have Louise as a mentor. She’s so encouraging.”
Galipeau admitted that she didn’t perhaps practice as much as she should have during those early years, but her dedication really took off during a Calgary summer music camp when she had the chance to work with several instrumentalists.
“It was kind of an eye-opener as to what was out there, and the level people were at. I realized I had the passion and the capability, but I had a lot of work to do if I wanted to get up to their level. So it was an inspiration, and I think also the catalyst.”
In her final year of high school, she arranged her schedule to free up as much time as possible to practice. She attended another summer camp in Medicine Hat where she met Michael van der Sloot, who she would later study with in Victoria as well.
After high school graduation, she completed a diploma in music through Camosun College and the Victoria Conservatory of Music.
“I was watching the Olympics where they talk about ‘difference makers’. I feel like Mr. van der Sloot was my difference maker. There was something about studying with him that was wonderful. He’s an amazing teacher and an amazing person.”
Over the years, she has performed with the Red Deer Youth Orchestra as well as the Rosedale Valley Strings in Lacombe. Although she started out with the violin, Galipeau switched to viola just last year.
Violas are larger than violins, but are still played in a similar manner. “It has the same strings as a cello, but it’s an octave higher. It’s in the mid-range, which I really like.” Galipeau added that the tones and the richness are mainly what draws her to the instrument.
As for the opportunity to attend Juilliard, Galipeau explained how she had a master class in Montreal and connected with a teacher from The Juilliard School.
Founded in 1905 as the Institute of Musical Art, the school was named for Augustus Juilliard, a wealthy textile merchant whose bequest was used to establish the Juilliard Graduate School in 1924.
In 1926, it merged with the Institute for Musical Art to become the Juilliard School of Music. With the additions of a dance division in 1951 and drama division in 1968, the name was shortened to The Juilliard School.
“She inspired me to apply. I also applied to a few other schools, but it turned out that this was the best option.” A two-step audition process was part of the process, including sending in recordings of specified repertoire.
“By the end of January, I found out that I got past the pre-screening. So I was invited to a live audition which was arranged at the beginning of March. At the very end of April, it was official. Naturally, she was ecstatic. “People were asking me if I was having a good day, as they didn’t really know what was happening,” she says with a laugh. “I freaked out.”
She remembers leaving her audition feeling good about her performance. Although it was 15 minutes late starting, the pressure was on and it was just plain nerve-wracking. But she was pleased with how it went.
“I thought I don’t care what’s going to happen, because I couldn’t have done any better. That made me feel so good. I would have been disappointed had I not been accepted and known that I could have done so much better.”
Ultimately, Galipeau’s acceptance into the famed school, that offers instruction in music, drama and dance, is quite the feat. “It has a five to seven per cent acceptance rate.” Down the road, she would love to teach one day. “I love performing but there is definitely something special about being able to inspire others.”
The chance to live in the ‘Big Apple’ will also offer all kinds of exciting opportunities.
“I’m so excited to live in New York. There are so many things I love in that city. I’m also excited to push myself and see where I will be able to go with the hard work.”