Music graduate explores the importance of music and the arts

May 9, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Anna Galura is an experienced and accomplished performer and an educator who is not only concerned with how to train musicians but also how to serve a community through the arts. Anna Galura Download Full Image

Galura graduates in May with a Master of Music in violin performance and pedagogy and a graduate certificate in music entrepreneurship.

“Anna is an ardent champion of art and culture, a passionate antiracist pedagogue and a leading 21st-century innovator and activist in the arts,” said Katherine McLin, professor of violin in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre and Galura’s teacher.

In addition to her violin, Galura uses her voice and pen as instruments to advance art and culture through the use of technology and social media platforms to advocate for, advance and encourage entrepreneurship in the arts, in order to address community social and economic needs.

In 2021, when much of the work at ASU was still taking place at home and online, Galura began cultivating an internationally accessible podcast, “Music | Why?,” dedicated to exploring the value of music and its role in peoples’ lives through interviews with music industry professionals around the globe. Her podcast features world renowned guests, including Afa Dworkin, Chi-chi Nwanoku, Titus Underwood, Michael Ballam and more, and it expands on the usage of music as a powerful tool for building communities.

“I was craving the kinds of conversations and relationships that a university normally offers in person, and I wanted to feature current projects and solutions to the challenges artists were facing around the world,” Galura said. “Brilliant people accepted my invitation and were abundantly generous with their time and wisdom. The experience has been rewarding beyond measure.”

“Music | Why?” has spawned a number of future publications and projects. In May, the International Horn Society “Horn Call” magazine will publish Galura’s article, “The 21st Century Artist & The Art of Collaboration,” featuring her work and findings through the podcast and an interview with professional horn player Larry Williams. 

In addition to her podcasting, Galura serves as a teaching assistant for Professor McLin and teaches violin lessons in her local community. She also maintains a vibrant career as a performer, playing throughout the country and internationally as a soloist, chamber musician and concertmaster. As a musician, entrepreneur, presenter and arts manager, she pushes the boundaries and draws upon multiple artistic mediums for inspiration, and she positions herself at the center of public life.

“Anna has that rare combination of academic drive and excellence;  compassion and empathy for her peers; and a clear-eyed vision for her creative practice, career and life,” said Daniel Roumain, Institute Professor and professor of practice in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre. “I learned as much from Anna as I hope she gained from our class. In this, Anna has always been a learner, leader and teacher. She embodies the best of us and offers anyone she meets hope.” 

This summer Galura has been invited to present a workshop on “The 21st Century Artist” at the Kennedy Center’s Co-Lab Festival, sponsored by the DMV Music Academy and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Her future plans include aiming for a director of arts and culture position and someday serving on the National Cabinet for Arts and Culture.

“Anna is a tireless advocate for the power of the arts to transform the individual as well as build and enrich a community,” McLin said. “She demonstrates this in numerous ways both small and large, from her stellar work teaching music majors at ASU to her thought-provoking podcast on the role and relevance of music in today’s society. I have no doubt that Anna will be a major figure in arts advocacy, and I can’t imagine the future of the arts in better hands.”

Galura received a teaching assistantship, the Katherine Herberger Music Scholarship and a Special Talent Award while attending ASU.

“Without this funding, I would not have had the past two life changing years at ASU,” Galura said. “It was the difference between getting a master’s degree or not, and I am  extremely thankful.”

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: The "aha" moment came to me when a loving violin teacher said to me during a lesson in high school one day, "Anna, do you want to heal bodies or do you want to heal souls?" The question came because I was very seriously contemplating a career in the medical field, but I was torn by my love of music. At that moment, I just knew.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I had a professor, Dr. Katherine McLin, who very compassionately offered the advice, "Don't let 'perfect' rob you of 'good'." Then, another professor, Dr. Christi Jay Wells, extended the phrase by saying, "Don't let 'good' rob you of 'done.'" Both pieces of advice came at critical points in my education, and I am grateful for the enlarged perspective on what it means to "accomplish" something. I've found myself hesitating in the past to take chances or try something new for fear of doing a poor job. I think it's part of growing up to realize that you can't offer your best work 100% of the time. When I find myself in the trap of thinking otherwise, I am my own worst enemy.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I specifically chose ASU for four reasons:

1. To study with a world class teacher, Dr. Katherine McLin.
2. To be her graduate teaching assistant.
3. To take advantage of the entrepreneurship program and "innovation bug" here.
4. To be in the West, closer to mine and my husband's family. Since being here, my eyes have been opened to the myriad of opportunities and relationships to be had in the community of Phoenix. I love it!

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: During my second semester at ASU, I suffered from an injury that prevented me from playing violin for almost six months. It was a devastating time. Dr. McLin listened patiently as I expressed to her some of my concerns about my future. She gave me two very powerful pieces of advice: "Never let fear be the deciding factor for a decision. You can do anything you want to do." And, "There is always another side to these times. When you come out the other end, it will be beautiful, and you will be all the stronger for it." I can say a year later that both of those pieces of advice are manifest in my life today.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Be curious. Get to know everyone and all of your professors as well as you can. These relationships are the foundation to a rich life of learning and community. You'll soon find that everything is connected.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: Like many violinists, I spent much of my time hunkered down in the practice room. My practice room was the TA office, which is also where I taught, had amazing conversations with students and friends, did a lot of homework, ate my lunch, rested. It was quiet and cozy. It's amazing what one can accomplish in such a small space.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Apart from playing and teaching the violin, I intend to spend time working in the nonprofit sector for arts and cultural organizations. This June I will be a guest presenter and podcaster at the “Co-Lab Music Festival” hosted at “The Reach” at the Kennedy Center, where I will advocate the importance of an entrepreneurial mindset and present interactive programming that provides opportunities for students to develop collaborative skills.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I'm not so sure if I could actually solve any single problem with only $40 million but I would attempt to wage a war on human trafficking. I grieve each day by the fact that people of all ages are enslaved around the globe, including the United States. It is a shameful part of our history, something I believe must be a collective responsibility in order to eradicate forever. Free agency is a precious gift, one that should be protected at all costs.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music, Dance and Theatre


Solar eclipse drew ASU Polytechnic campus graduate to applied physics

May 9, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

It’s been quite a hectic semester for Arizona State University graduating senior Addison Olsen, who’s completed a bachelor’s degree in applied physics in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. ASU College of Integrative Sciences and Arts applied physics graduate Addison Olsen smiles while standing in front of whiteboard. ASU applied physics major Addison Olsen, at work in the tutoring center at ASU Polytechnic campus. Olsen has just accepted a job offer she’s excited about: working with a photonics company in Colorado. Download Full Image

“I've just been incredibly busy with job applications, homework, graduation details, etc.,” said Olsen, who also works for CISA’s faculty of sience and mathematics as an instructional aide at ASU's Polytechnic campus.

Olsen has found the job market to be quite robust for someone with her knowledge and experience. During finals week, she received some great news that was cause for pause and reflection.

“After searching for an entry-level job in a physics-adjacent field, I just accepted an offer to work for ThorLabs. They're a photonics company, the field of manipulating and using light in various applications. Like electronics, but with photons!” Olsen explained. “They produce cool stuff like lasers and other optical equipment.

“I’m super excited about it,” she emphasized in an email. “I get to move to Boulder, Colorado, which will hopefully give me the opportunity to spend more time outdoors. I've made a lot of sacrifices to ensure that I was doing the best I possibly could in school (which I don't regret). But now that I'm graduating, I want to get back into my hobbies.”

Olsen, whose hometown is Gilbert, Arizona, said that having a relationship with nature has always been a significant piece of who she is: “It's a part of why I decided to study physics in the first place,” she said. “I also have a lot of creative aspirations related to music and writing."

Olsen described her decision to major in physics as “a religious kind of experience,” in a way.

“I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to Oregon to watch the total solar eclipse that passed over North America in 2017. It left me completely awestruck,” she said. “I had never seen something so beautiful in my life. I knew then and there that I wanted to get back in school, to study what makes our universe tick and what makes an event like that possible.”

Now, with the next step in her career secured, she is already beginning to imagine her future a few years down the road.

“ThorLabs offers full tuition reimbursement, and CU Boulder has a renowned optical/quantum physics department,” she said. “I could see myself working toward a graduate degree there someday.”

Addison Olsen took time to share these additional reflections about her ASU journey.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: The biggest impact that learning all of this math and science has had on me is a constant reminder to enjoy the life I have. Understanding the reality of how hostile the universe can be to life, be it asteroids, radiation, etc., has helped me understand just how special every day is in a new way.

Q: Did your career-connected learning as an undergraduate help you on the job market?

A: Despite what I read online, earning my degree in applied physics has prepared me for the job market in a surprising number of ways. Learning to code and to interface with cluster computers is highly marketable. I'm finding that experience in a laser optics lab and a working understanding of the physics behind semi-conductor devices are also sought-after in the job market. Not to mention the ways that I have been able to develop my interpersonal skills and public speaking ability while teaching and working in the tutoring center.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: ASU is accessible. I was able to bring over a lot of credit hours from Mesa Community College. I'm not sure that I would have been able to afford school at all if it hadn't been for that. The STEM programs here have good reputations as well. I knew that I would be able to connect with a wide variety of professors to figure out what my niche is and what my deeper interests are.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: So, I'm transgender, and have started transitioning during my last year at ASU. Professor (Maxim) Sukharev was explicit about the fact that it would never affect my status here at school and that I would always be welcome here. I think it's really important that students feel welcomed in places of learning like ASU, regardless of their background. After worrying about what people in the STEM community might think about me for so long, Professor Sukharev showed me that the status quo can change.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Use the tutoring center! There are a ton of resources there. I wish that I had used their services more when I was first taking all of my math courses.

Q: Did you have a favorite spot at ASU Polytechnic campus for studying?

A: I really love the library — though it was (understandably) a bit more difficult to use during the pandemic. Having access to big whiteboards for exploring problems was always super beneficial. It's a great place to set up meetings with classmates to discuss difficult topics. Eventually, after the pandemic started, my favorite place to study became my room, out of necessity. I spent a lot of time making sure that it was a comfortable, relatively distraction-free space for me to work in. Now that things are mostly back to normal, I've been doing a lot of reading outside. The Polytechnic campus is gorgeous.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: There are a couple that I think about from time to time, and they have to do with energy. Developing new, efficient methods of energy storage and retrieval would go a long way. I love the idea of being involved in some kind of new battery technology. Safe, modular nuclear reactors appeal to me as well, and would make for a clean way to generate energy! There are countless humanitarian efforts that would benefit greatly from that kind of money, too.

Maureen Roen

Director of Communications, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts