Backstage at the Keller Auditorium, Jack Galliano’s nerves were getting to him as he waited to perform in front of an audience of thousands in the Portland Opera’s production of Aida. The May 9 performance would be Galliano’s first time singing in an opera. He was a member of the chorus, and even though he would not be at center stage, he was worried about what would happen on stage as he stood in front of a full house at Keller.
The advocate and the artist
Backstage at the Keller Auditorium, Jack Galliano’s nerves were getting to him as he waited to perform in front of an audience of thousands in the Portland Opera’s production of Aida.
The May 9 performance would be Galliano’s first time singing in an opera. He was a member of the chorus, and even though he would not be at center stage, he was worried about what would happen on stage as he stood in front of a full house at Keller.
“I was like, ‘Oh man, my friends are in the audience, there’s a ton of people out there,'” Galliano said. “It was nerve racking. It was scary, but exciting scary.”
The rehearsals and practices paid off, and despite the butterflies, Galliano got into character, forgot about the audience, and the show went on–that night and four others. After Aida‘s five-show run ended on May 17, Galliano returned to his day job, but for only five days.
Galliano, the Oregon Student Association campus organizer at Portland State, is putting in his last day of work at PSU today, after organizing, training and motivating students for a year and a half. As campus organizer, Galliano worked with the leaders of student government as a professional advocate, helping them set goals, work with the state legislature and serve the student body as best they can.
The job was well suited for Galliano, 23, who was the student body president of Eastern Oregon University before he graduated in the spring of 2006 and began his work as the PSU campus organizer later that year.
But having played roles in musicals and theater in both high school and college, Galliano has just as much experience working in musical theater as he does in politics. And even though he loves advocacy and has participated in political work for most of his adult life, Galliano plans to pursue a career in musical theater, a passion he realized existed while he was working on Aida.
“I had to have more,” he said about being on stage in front of thousands. “I had to have more of it.”
From politics to theater
It seems likely that Galliano will get more. He is leaving his job in Oregon to move home to Hawaii, where he plans to pursue his master’s degree in vocal performance and theater. Although his plans are not set in stone, Galliano said he may audition for the Hawaii Opera Theater.
“And of course to do every musical gig that there is in Hawaii,” he said.
That does not mean Galliano plans to give up advocacy, however. He said his time at Portland State has been invaluable, helping him gain knowledge about himself and what it means to be an advocate. Plus, he has to have a job that can consistently, as he said, bring in the bacon, “The WinCo bacon.”
Tash Shatz, the equal-rights advocate for the Associated Students of Portland State University, said Galliano has been an absolute asset to ASPSU and all the student government leaders. Beyond a professional relationship, Shatz said Galliano is an amazing friend who was one of the first people to really reach out to him when he started at ASPSU.
“I’m definitely going to miss him a lot,” Shatz said, “not only like his presence, his great attitude, but also his organizing skills.”
Galliano learned a great deal of his organizing skills while he was a student at Eastern Oregon. During his junior year, he was elected as student body president, and in that same year, he took his first position in OSA on the organization’s Board of Directors, an all-student board that guides the direction of the group.
OSA is a nonprofit advocacy and organizing association that focuses on issues students in Oregon are concerned with. Galliano, who studied policy, philosophy and economics at Eastern Oregon, served on the OSA Board of Directors his junior and senior years of college, and then was hired on staff to work at PSU in November 2006.
Only a few months later, he began to volunteer for the Portland Opera’s production of The Flying Dutchman. One thing led to another, and Galliano landed an unpaid role in the ghost (offstage) chorus.
After The Flying Dutchman ended, Galliano decided he would try out during the open rehearsals for the next season’s shows at Portland Opera.
Galliano, who attended and graduated from high school in Germany, used his ability to speak fluent German to his advantage, preparing and singing a German song. Evidently, it impressed the judges, because in spring of 2007, he found out he landed a role in Aida.
Besides Germany, Galliano said, he has lived in more than 25 countries because he grew up in a military family. He said moving around so often was a blessing and that it has given him perspective.
“It’s given me the opportunity to grow up as a citizen of the world, instead of just a citizen of the U.S,” he said.
Tamara Henderson, the executive director of OSA, said Galliano’s work as a campus organizer has been an asset to the organization, particularly because of his involvement when he was in college.
“Jack’s a really passionate individual, and that’s always something that lends itself to being a strong advocate,” she said.
Finding a passion
It is likely that Aida will be one of the most valuable experiences Galliano will have had in Portland, he said. Singing with professional opera performers, some of whom have worked at the New York Metropolitan Opera, taught him a great deal about his own singing and how he can improve.
Although a production of the satirical musical Urine Town that Galliano took part in while he was at Eastern Oregon may be one of his favorite acting experiences, he said that through Aida, he found a love for opera.
Standing on stage as the crowd at Keller Auditorium rose to their feat to applaud the actors of Aida as the show ended, Galliano took in every moment of what he said was a humbling, empowering experience.
“I ate my heart out.”