In 2001, violinist Ioana Galu left her native Romania on a scholarship to pursue a second master's degree at Bowling Green State University. She completed that degree and went on to receive a doctorate there, as well. In the process, she made friends in the music department, served as a graduate assistant and filled in as an instructor for two people on sabbatical.
Since 2004, Galu has been a member of the music faculty at Heidelberg University, which she calls "my home, my love." In April, she is to turn 39 and notes she has spent 13 years - a third of her life - in the United States.
"I've been received here with open arms. I've been encouraged to learn the language. I'm on a mission to learn it. I believe in everything America stands for. ... I think I am successfully immersed in the culture," Galu said.
The Eastern String Quartet includes (from left) Iuliana Cotirlea, Kyla Witt, Jason
Heidelberg and Ioana Galu.
Members of the Heidelberg Jazz Combo rehearse.
Galu also is on the faculty for the Eastern Music Festival in Charlotte, N.C. She estimates playing 30-50 recitals per year, which has introduced her to more musicians, composers and conductors. With government and local support, she and her colleagues in Romania organized a summer music festival in 2010 and invited Galu's American friends to perform.
Those who participated have been warmly welcomed and treated "like royalty," she said.
"We have had three editions of this wonderful festival already ... in my hometown in Romania. It's called 'American Musicians in Bistrita,'" Galu said. "We eat great food. We attend great concerts."
Now, Galu has organized a concert, "Ioana and Friends," for 7 p.m. Friday in Brenneman Music Hall on the Heidelberg campus. The performers include BGSU faculty members Julie Buzzelli (harp), Kevin Bylsma (piano) and Penny Kruse (violin); and Heidelberg faculty members Barb Specht (clarinet) and Steven Kruse (viola).
Although she has performed individually with all of the musicians who will be on stage for "Ioana and Friends," the group of past and present professors and students of hers never have been together on the same concert program. Buzzelli and Galu collaborated in a radio broadcast. Bylsma and the Kruses have performed with Galu as part of her annual chamber music festival in Bistrita. The Kruses also hosted Galu in their home, becoming her adopted family while she was at Bowling Green.
"Penny Kruse was my coach when I did my master's. then she became my mentor when I went for my doctorate," Galu said.
Also performing Jan. 11 will be Iuliana Cotirlea, a former student of Galu's in Romania, and the Eastern String Quartet of Galu, Cotirlea, Kyla Witt and Jason Heidelberg. Rounding out the cast will be the Heidelberg Jazz Combo, comprised of students Kyle Sherepita, Collin Stump, Melissa Flowers, Kyle McDonald, Mike Lee, Lucas Walter and Mackenzie Honaker.
"Ever since I came to the United States, I wanted to make connections between the two countries. That was very important to me," Galu said. "The Romanian artist who is coming, Iuliana Cotirlea, was my violin student at the Conservatory in Romania. I taught there for three years. She is now a very established artist."
Some of the jazz combo members are Galu's students, whom she likes to include in her recitals. She made every effort to find a date when everyone was available In choosing the music, she contacted each artist and reviewed pieces they had enjoyed playing together in the past.
Penny Kruse wanted something for two violins and piano. Galu and Steven Kruse are to play three "small, gorgeous pieces" for violin and viola. Buzzelli selected a composition by a French composer. Galu said she wanted the string quartet to do something "romantic, and heart-breaking and inspiring and cheerful at the same time," so they chose something by Mendelssohn.
Galu also wanted to include a contemporary composition she had heard, "Toccatina a la Turk" for two violins. When she could not find the music, she contacted the composer, Atar Arad.
"You break your hand. it is so difficult, but it is so beautiful, it's worth it," Galu said. "He actually sent me the music. He mailed it to me."
At a summer music festival, Galu had met Paola Marques, a Columbian composer. When Galu asked whether Marques had any contemporary pieces for solo violin, the response was "I do." Marques offered Galu a formal, dramatic piece, "Voice of Silence."
"I learned it in a heartbeat, and I thought, 'This has to be played at Heidelberg,'" Galu said.
With so much variety, Galu is certain the program will be innovative and interesting for the musicians and for the audience. It will be about 90 minutes of "charming works of music" with a short intermission.
She is dedicating the concert to the Friends of Heidelberg Music.
"Those are fantastic people. They knew my first name during the first month of school," Galu said. "This is something special because I have people that have been my mentors, my friends, my students, are my students, are my close friends, my colleagues. I couldn't have found a better mix of past, present and future."
Admission to the concert is free. A reception is to follow, and Galu plans to make some of the food herself.