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School Notes: Years of Lessons Bring Cellist New England Honors

Tuesday, January 27, 2015
For Neha Garg, something had to give two years ago: Competitive swimming or the cello lessons.

This past December, the decision paid off, when the Hanover High School senior raced to first place among high school-age musicians trying out for the right to play cello for the All-New England Orchestra for high school-age musicians.

“I’ve auditioned four years in a row,” Garg said recently. “I think that having the experience from the previous times helped.”

Experience, plus “many run-throughs, with double lessons the previous week,” with her teacher of 10 years, Linda Galvan of Thetford.

“Linda’s been great,” Garg said. “I’ve loved learning from her. She’s very encouraging. There’s a lot of different approaches, and she makes it pleasant to go to lessons. We work through things.”

Things like composer David Popper’s Hungarian Rhapsody, which Garg performed during the December audition at Hartford High School.

“We always pick more challenging pieces,” she said. “It always seems to work out better. My piece this year was significantly harder. I felt good. I was happy about it. I knew that how it comes out depends on who else is auditioning. You just go into a room, with one judge, and you play.”

And if you play with your teacher of 10 years accompanying you on the piano, so much the better.

“I’m lucky to have Linda play with me for many of my auditions,” Garg said. “This is a huge help.”

Galvan started working with Garg at the request of a former pupil, Hanover High School’s Hannah Johnson, who was heading off to study and play the cello at the Manhattan School of Music.

“Neha was very much of a beginner,” Galvan recalled. “I did it at the time because Hannah asked me to take her on, but (Garg) really, really loved it. She’s got the most wonderful attitude. She really cares about what she’s doing. She has a very strong emotional connection to what she’s doing. That makes the playing really special.”

While learning the exacting art of playing the cello at the Eastman School of Music, Galvan rarely gave a first thought to grooming anyone to follow in her footsteps.

“I was burning with music,” said Galvan, who these days performs mostly as principal cellist of the Upper Valley-based Camerata New England. “I lived and breathed it. It was my soul. I never imagined I could be a teacher when I was in conservatory.”

That changed, gradually, while Galvan played first solo cello for the National Ballet and Dance Theater of the Netherlands, and performed recitals around Europe, and later North America.

“I discerned that the kind of track I was following involved traveling, which I hated. I don’t like being in airports. Carrying a cello is really hard work.”

How hard, Garg didn’t worry about after hearing a recording that her parents were playing at home.

“It’s always been the cello,” Garg said. “I started playing when I was 6. I really like the sound. I wouldn’t put it down when I was really little.”

And while she doesn’t expect to take her cello to a conservatory next year — she’s looking at colleges where she can explore the sciences and architecture and engineering, among other subjects — nor will she put the instrument aside.

“I’m looking at schools that have chamber groups and symphonies,” she said.

And, maybe, schools near which live the next generation of budding cellists, primed to learn.

“It’ll be a good way to apply my knowledge,” Garg said of teaching. “One of the things that is important is patience. Everyone learns differently.”

On Stage

The Hanover High School Footlighters will perform the play The Laramie Project, based on the events surrounding the murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming in 1998, this week in the school auditorium.

The performances will start at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with the Footlighters dedicating Friday’s performance to the memory of 1979 graduate Winkie Bean, a Footlighter alumnus who was stabbed to death in a hate crime in New York City in 1983. Tickets cost $5 to $8.

Amy Good, a learning specialist at the school, said that the school’s Rainbow Alliance and Amnesty Clubs are holding events at the school this week in support of the “Erase Hate” message of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

∎ As a benefit for Safeline, an agency serving survivors of domestic and sexual violence in central Vermont, students at Vermont Law School will perform playwright Eva Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues on Feb. 13, in the school’s Chase Community Center.

After a reception at 6:30 p.m., the performance starts at 7:15. The play is based on interviews with more than 200 women who shared a wide range of experiences. The presentation is part of the law school’s observance of V-Day, a global movement in support of organizations battling violence against women. Tickets cost $5 in advance and $7 at the door. For more information, visit or send email to

The Write Stuff

Woodstock Union High School student Spencer Eckert was a Vermont finalist in the recent essay contest for the presidential State of the Union address.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., last week announced the top four finalists — led by Leo Hehrer-Small of Mount Mansfield Union High School — and the rest of the top 20 essayists from Vermont.

Student Honors

Middlebury College has conferred the title of College Scholar, the school’s highest academic honor, on senior Abra Atwood of Sharon, for her performance during the fall 2014 semester. Atwood, a 2010 graduate of The Sharon Academy, is majoring in geology.

∎ Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., recently named Michael Dulac of White River Junction to its dean’s list for the 2014 fall semester. A sophomore, Dulac maintained a grade-point average of between 3.3 and 3.6 out of a possible 4.0, with no grade below 2.0.

∎ Chelsea resident Alexander Richardson earned a spot on the Vice President’s List for the fall semester at Lakes Region Community College in Laconia, N.H. Richardson, who is majoring in fire science, earned the distinction by maintaining a grade-point average of between 3.3 and 3.74 out of a possible 4.0.

∎ Alfred University in upstate New York has named Bryce Lloyd of Hartland to its dean’s list for the 2014 fall semester. Lloyd, a graduate of The Sharon Academy, maintained a grade-point average of at least 3.5 out of a possible 4.0.

∎ Vermont’s Johnson State College recently named five Upper Valley students to its dean’s list for the fall semester.

Making the grade were junior Joshua Lemay of Newbury, freshman Emily Wright of South Royalton, freshman Joseph Kifner and senior Erika McCormick of Strafford, and senior Rachael Garnjost of Windsor.

∎ Lebanon High School in December recognized Jane Tangen as its student of the month. According to Dianne Estes, the Lebanon School District’s director of school and community relations, Tangen has “designed her own path through some of the high school’s most rigorous classes” and “has also taken three online classes and is currently enrolled in her fourth Dartmouth computer science class.” Tangen is president and co-founder of the school’s “Nerd Herd,” with her facility in math and science. She is a member of the National Honor Society, and, Estes added, “while she might be considered by some to be quiet, she is remarkably thoughtful and kind.”

∎ Williams College has named freshman Caroline Atwood of Sharon to its dean’s list for the fall 2014 semester. Atwood, a freshman majoring in geoscience, is a 2012 graduate of The Sharon Academy.

Planning Ahead

The Community College of Vermont’s Springfield Center is offering a free course, Introduction to College Studies, to high school sophomores, juniors and seniors, beginning in February.

The class, aimed at students seeking orientation to the college experience and to career exploration, will be held on Monday nights between 6 and 8:30 between Feb. 23 and May 18. Students will meet in the conference room of the Great Falls Regional Chamber of Commerce on Westminster Avenue in Bellows Falls. For more information, call Debra Grant at 802-885-8372 or send her email at

David Corriveau can be reached at and at 603-727-3304.

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