Cathy Gallagher is the principle Clarinet and a fabulous musician with the Milton Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO), and it has been my pleasure getting to know Cathy for the past three years as a part of the orchestra. She is always quick with a smile, brightening any room that she enters. While it was a bit of a struggle getting this funny, unassuming musician to open up about herself, she’s definitely someone who deserves a Spotlight!
Q: Cathy! Thanks for agreeing to a Spotlight! I know you don’t like to “toot your own horn,” but you’re worth getting to know…
A: I’m not great at speaking about myself, but I know you will make me sound great!
Q: What is your background as a musician?
A: I began playing music with the Rathfarnham Concert Band Society (RCBS) located in Dublin, Ireland, where I was born. My parents were looking for an activity to put me into because I think they recognized I had a bit of an ear for music, which I believe I inherited from my dad. He plays guitar and banjo and has always loved music and was always singing in the house when I was a kid.
Q: Did you start off with the clarinet?
A: When I was 8, I started on the recorder and when I was 10, I moved to the clarinet and joined the RCBS concert band where I got my first taste of playing in an ensemble.
Q: Do you teach clarinet?
A: Right now, I do not teach. I did teach for many years before my kids were born and when they were quite young. I love teaching clarinet and I will definitely return to teaching in the future.
Q: You have been with the MPO since the beginning in 2014. Have you played with any orchestras previously?
A: Yes, when I was 13, I auditioned for the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland and played with them for about six years. I also played with various orchestras and concert bands while in university. I studied clarinet with John Meehan at the College of Music in Dublin, where I received my degree in music performance and later with Andre Moisan at the University of Montreal. When I heard that an orchestra was being formed in Milton in 2014, I auditioned and was thrilled to be accepted. Since joining the orchestra, Sabatino [Vacca], our conductor, has also given me many opportunities to play with other community orchestras that he is involved in, including the Etobicoke Philharmonic Orchestra.
Q: I know you musically, of course, since we’re both with the MPO, but I realize that I don’t know very much about you personally! What makes Cathy Gallagher tick?
A: I’ve been married to Jason for almost 16 years and we have been living in Milton for over 13 years. We met in Montreal (where he is from) after I completed my studies at the University of Montreal. We have two children; Meaghan is 13 and Ryan is 11. Meaghan is a keen artist and plays softball with the Milton Bats and Ryan enjoys baseball, playing with the Fieldhouse Pirates. When I’m not busy with family, work or taxiing kids to and from ball practice or games, my vice is visiting Total Skin and Body Spa on Main Street or the Blue Room Spa on Charles Street for some relaxation. On weekends, Jason and I enjoy entertaining and getting together with friends for dinner and a few laughs, and during the summer we like to catch a Jays game or two.
Q: How do you find the musical culture in Milton?
A: I love the music scene in Milton! There are so many ensembles and groups for all ages and levels. In addition to the MPO, we have the Milton Concert Band, which has been around for over 10 years. We have a great performing arts centre here in Milton that showcases local and international acts and the great thing is you don’t have to leave Milton to see a great performance. A few years ago, I got to see Irish tenor Colm Wilkinson (Les Miserables) perform here in Milton. You can never be bored with Milton’s art scene! There is something to satisfy everyone’s tastes.
Q: Any ideas about what you’d like to see happen with the music scene here in Milton?
A: I would love to see a youth orchestra in Milton in the future, possibly an extension of the MPO.
Q: You’re from Ireland, and travel back often to see family. Your father, Tony, is a big supporter of you, and of the MPO. How do you keep everything balanced between Milton and your home in Ireland?
A: The fact that I can travel home every year for a few days to catch up with family and friends keeps me balanced. My dad is a big supporter of the MPO, so much so, he sponsors the entire wind section! He will even plan his visits to Canada around our concert schedule so he gets to see us perform.
Q: Wonderful! I have a quick fire round of questions to finish up your Spotlight. Ready?
Q: What is your favourite thing about Milton?
A: The people and the friends I’ve made and the friends my kids have made. It’s a great community to raise a family.
Q: Favourite restaurant and dish?
A: Fresh Addicts near James Snow and Main St. They make a mean salad!
Q: Favourite place in Milton?
A: The baseball diamond by day and Milton’s performing arts centre by night!
Q: Favourite colour?
Q: Who else do you think I should interview for a spotlight, and why?
A: Jenn Callum. Her dedication to the orchestra is brilliant.
I don’t think I can interview myself, Cathy…but thank you!
“In the spirit of full disclosure, in addition to being the Arts editor for Milton Talk, I am also the Co-founder and president of the Milton Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO).” – Jenn Callum