Hello John, Nice to meet you.
When I was a child, I really wanted to play the violin, but I didn’t have this possibility as I was born in a village and it was too far for my parents to drive me back and forth for lessons and it was expensive. There was one virtuoso musician in my family, he had a very beautiful expensive violin and I was tempted to play it but was not allowed as I could destroy it. Today I am an artist in many fields with many prizes too.
I have many questions, but they are very natural, and I just want to compare your dreams with my musical unfulfilled dreams. When I saw you and heard your beautiful violin playing I got excited, it reminded me of my childhood. Now I can only listen to someone’s performances and dream about my violin playing.
Thank you very much for this interview, John. Thank you for sharing your story with the magazine DESIGNER/ Stockholm.
H.R Please, could you introduce yourself and mention few facts from your biography?
J.R.G. My name is John Gallant. I study at Eton College where I am a music scholar. I play the violin and piano and have performed both as a soloist and orchestral player in many prestigious concert venues around the world, including the Albert Hall in London, International House of Music in Moscow, and Carnegie Hall in New York. I studied at the Royal College of Music and I was selected to be a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.
H.R When did you feel that music is your passion, an elixir for the mind and soul?
When I was a child, I gave a concert which I did not expect to become a particularly profound occasion. However, I came away with an entirely different perspective on music. I began to view it as of way of communicating my emotions to people better than I ever could through speech.
H.R How do you feel when you stand on the stage and play for so many people? For whom you play and compose the music most?
J.R.G. Whenever I am on stage, I just focus on the feelings that I want to convey to my audience. It puts me in a very calm and satisfied frame of mind even if the feeling I am trying to convey is anger or sadness. My audiences are always mixed. They include people of all ages and backgrounds. Most of the music I composed has been written for myself to perform but I do have several works in my collection written for a group of instruments. I intend to write more of these in the future as bringing people together in performance is a big part of what music is.
H.R What the family means to you? Do they support you or you must struggle yourself? What do you do on your casual day?
J.R.G. My family is essential to me. Every time any doubt develops in my mind, they are always there to give me confidence. My mother, father, and grandmother are all a major part of my musicianship. I would go as far as to say, without their assistance, I would be nowhere near where I am now. As always music has been a great source of therapy for me and it gets me through anything life throws at me, though I must admit I have been very lucky in my life.
On a casual day, I always start by doing some gentle practice on the violin and piano. Then I improvise on the guitar, ending up writing a song. In between the music, I clear my mind by playing football with friends or watching a film.
H.R You are the winner of many prizes. Could you tell us more about it?
J.R.G. I won multiple prizes including the international America Golden Strings Competition, after which I was invited to play in the Carnegie Hall in New York, the Hugh Bean Violin Competition at the Royal College of Music, London Young Musician Competition among many others. You will have to trust me when I say I won other ones too! The truth is that lately winning has never been my primary aim since I do not think this is what music is about. What is much more important is the feedback you get so you can improve and the emotion you can convey to your audience.
H.R What is your plan with music in the future?
J.R. G. Whatever I do music will always play a big part in my life. To me, it is not important if music is the way I earn money. I believe it is always better to play music for its own sake. However, there is of course no harm in making money by making music.
H.R Do you want to say more about your good friends and family? Who most supports you in your artistic path?
J.R.G. Many people support me including my family, music teachers, and friends. I owe them so much! They all support me in different ways, and I really value this.
H.R Did you travel a lot? Did you take part in many performances? What do you bring with your music to other people?
J.R. G. I have traveled quite a lot to perform for people. I was made to perform a lot from a young age and I appreciate it because I realize it has made me far more confident not only as a performer but a person in general. All I hope for is that the people who heard me play felt something in my playing. This is my only true aim in music.
H.R How much time you spent practicing playing the violin?
J.R.G. I have always tried to practice smart rather than just try to put in the hours. I was warned that it is very easy to just launch into a long period of music practice that is of more harm than good. It is very easy to practice bad habits and important to be careful and strategic when you practice.
H.R I remember as a child I was even shy to say something, but you were only four years old when you started to play the violin and to perform in front of a large audience. How did you feel? Is it difficult, or it makes you excited?
J.R.G. In music and in life I always try to focus on the task at hand. It is one of the central themes in Buddhist philosophy and it is proven to benefit many people’s quality of life and experience. In music, this idea of focusing simply on what you need to do right now has allowed me to feel satisfied with my performance as I know I have given my best effort and not succumbed to distracting thoughts. As I get older, I feel I understand this concept better and better but even when I was four years old on the stage, I think some part of me knew the only way to go is to think about what I need to do at the moment, instead of what might happen.
Your mother Olga Balakleets is a producer, and she is planning exciting shows under the umbrella of Theatrum Vitae’s multifaceted cultural platform. Are you planning to take part in them?
J.R.G. I owe so much of my musical ability to my mother, and I will want to support her projects especially the Theatrum Vitae. I believe in this project and I hope I can contribute to it musically.
H.R What is your biggest dream? And how do you want to fulfill it?
J.R.G. My biggest dream is an abstract idea. I simply want to feel that I have realized my potential in as many ways as I could in my life. This would be in music and other things too.
H.R How does music help you to overcome difficult moments in your life? Did friends play a role in your childhood and in your life?
J.R.G. To quote a song by Jim Morrison, lead singer of ‘The Doors’, ‘music is your only friend in the end’. I am so grateful to the people who have supported me in my life, so I hope you do not think I am a sociopath! The truth is music has seen me through my darkest moments and I played out my emotions in the music rather than talking about it with words with people.
Contrary to what some of what I wrote for this interview suggests I have always been quite a sociable person. I would always choose a company over being alone and I still do now. I thank my mother and father for never getting in my way when I wanted to hang out with friends, so I think I have been very lucky in the childhood I had.
H.R Who inspired you most, do you have your idols? What or who gives you energy for creating?
J.R.G. My biggest inspiration is an idea rather than a person. The idea of realizing my potential to the maximum. I think all people can better themselves if they put their faith in ideas rather than people. This is because all people, me as much as anyone, have limitations and weaknesses but ideas do not. I think all of us should set the bar as high as possible otherwise we have no chance of doing the best we can. The idea of realizing my maximum potential is what always gave me the energy to play and create music.
Photos: John Gallnat Family Archive.