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The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Monday, February 18, 2019
Blog posting written by Nnebundo A. Obi, FLEFF Intern, South Setauket NY.
Identical doors line the hallways of the third floor in the Whalen School of Music. One door has a lot of energy humming around it. A soaring operatic soprano voice escapes under the door as I draw closer. It echoes throughout the vast expanse of the halls. It is amidst this flurry of excitement and activity that I have the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Galvan. Prior to our interview, she gave a presentation to the FLEFF bloggers team the night before. One piece of advice she said stood out to me. She said, “For educational experiences to reach you, you need to invite them in. Open yourself to new experiences because they will not become a part of your meaningful experiences uninvited.”
Dr. Janet Galvan is the Director of Chorale Activities and conductor for Ithaca College Choir and Women’s Chorale Group. One of Dr. Galvan’s approach to conducting is “that music can empower or marginalize people, I approach music as a tool for social justice”.
This notion steadily evolved into a passion to ensure that various social inequalities are addressed through her work as a conductor. She believes that it is her responsibility to convince her students to trust her to lead them on their respective journeys of discovery, challenges, and realizations. Likewise, through her position in FLEFF, she invites all of us to venture on a musical journey that invites a diverse set of voices, modes of expression and beliefs to find common humanity while questioning how we can overcome what divides us.
As a member of the FLEFF Artistic Direction team, Dr. Galvan assists FLEFF co-director Patricia Zimmerman by creating an order of performers for the concert. The performers are chosen by Dr. Zimmerman. The performers choose their own music based on the theme of the festival. The artistic direction team decides how to put the various musical compositions in an order that creates an exciting concert. They team find ways to enhance the music through visuals, creative use of the space, spoken words, or sound design. She has been very involved in FLEFF concerts for the past three years as the conductor of the Ithaca College Women’s Chorale. In her overall programming, she aims for honesty and to get the message across.
The inclusion of different composers and music serves to provide a platform for voices and social issues that are often unheard or invisible. In order to prepare for this huge undertaking, Dr. Galvan seeks guidance from experts in a variety of fields to ensure that the performances are both intellectually, emotionally stimulating and healing. She agrees with Dean Paulnack of the Whalen Music School when he states that musicians do impactful work when their performance can make the difference in a person’s life. Dean Paulnack states, “Someday at 8:00 p.m. someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft."
Before programming for the concert is underway, Dr. Galvan engages in extensive research. She finds her inspiration from numerous sources, live concerts, recordings sent by colleagues and composers, international visits, composer websites, and recommendations. The internet is one of her search tools. She scours YouTube looking for music that catches her interest and allows herself to listen freely. Naturally, she researches the works of local composers that have relevant work. Dr. Galvan states that one surprising thing people might not know about her work with FLEFF is “the amount of time and dedication that goes into putting up a three-minute performance”.
Given that Dr. Galvan is usually busy when the festival is in full swing, she is unable to see as many films to better immerse herself in the festival as she would like to. However, some of her favourite things about FLEFF are the concert, meeting people from all works of life, and learning about the variety and content of the different films and art projects at the festival. She states that one of the most powerful things about FLEFF is that it is “intergenerational, international, intercultural, intersectional and interdisciplinary”.
She believes that FLEFF’s value lies in its ability to bring people together in spaces that facilitate dialogue and raises awareness about various invisible issues that we are directly and indirectly affected by. Quite poignantly, she states that an intellectual enterprise such as FLEFF “should leave you with more questions than answers”.
Having interviewed Dr. Galvan, I realized that FLEFF is more than a film festival. It strives to empower students, faculty and participants alike to enter spaces where our fears, hopes and experiences are up for discussion and exploration. We are asked to engage in dialogue and debate in response to the programming created through the vision and foresight of the members of the FLEFF team, other faculty and external collaborators.