TCNJ’s Wind Ensemble recent concert, “The Road Home,” took on a whole new meaning for Ryan Galik ’18, who returned to campus for the December 2019 performance.
As Galik sat in the audience of the Mildred & Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall, the music education alumnus listened as the ensemble performed the world premiere of his 18-minute composition, Felo De Se.
“The magic I felt was indescribable,” Galik said. Earlier in the day, he participated in a pre-concert discussion panel with Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Bands Eric Laprade and Artist-teacher of Saxophone and Director of TCNJ’s Saxophone Ensemble Kathy Mitchell. As Galik said, “It was so interesting to return to TCNJ as an alumnus and sit with faculty who had helped me … I have nothing but pride.”
Laprade, who conducted the performance, described the collaboration as a “wonderful opportunity for our students and the college community as a whole — one that highlighted the immense talent and sophistication of our students, faculty, and alumni.”
Galik had reached out to Laprade last year after he came across “scraps” of a composition that he had originally written during his senior year at TCNJ. They spent last semester refining the piece for the performance.
In his composition, Galik focuses on the theme of suicide and the Kübler-Ross Model, which describes the five stages of grief that individuals experience when they lose a loved one. “The stages outlined by the model fueled how the musical transitions would happen,” he explained.
An avid reader, Galik said he digested as much literature as he could on the subject, including works by David Foster Wallace, who had written a lot about suicide and depression before taking his own life in 2008.
Galik said he was inspired to write the composition because suicide has become a prevalent societal issue, and he hopes to inspire individuals “to seek forgiveness for people who have made that choice.”
Galik began writing music in middle and high school, but it was not until he came to TCNJ that he was able to develop as a composer. He credits an independent study with Associate Professor of Music and Interactive Multimedia and Department Chair of Interactive Multimedia Teresa Nakra for helping him begin a number of compositions.
As he started working on projects, he also sought guidance from several voice and instrumental faculty members, including Mitchell; Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities John Leonard; and Professor of Historical and Cultural Studies in Music Wayne Heisler. Those connections offered Galik the opportunity to write pieces for TCNJ performances as a student.
“The size of the music department and its small community played a big part in what kinds of opportunities I’ve had,” he said.
Now, Galik is sharing the lessons he learned at TCNJ with future generations of aspiring artists. Since September 2019, Galik has taught preschool through third grade at Lawrenceville Elementary School.
TCNJ faculty members, such as Associate Professor of Music and Coordinator of Music Education Colleen Sears, encouraged Galik and his peers to have classroom discussions about real world issues that they observed while student teaching.
“Dr. Sears instilled in us that ‘You are the people that are going to implement the change,’” Galik recalls. “The values that you hold will hold with the students … realizing that you have that power and the responsibility to be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
— Meaghan Resta