What makes a flute player like James Galway famous?

When you are learning an instrument do you ever wonder whether you will become so good that you will one day be famous, or at least well known and sought after as a musician.  What does it take to get this accolade?

Being a famous musician is no different in practice to being a famous sportsperson, politician, actor or any other profession that someone has worked at for years.  It takes something or someone special as well as sheer hard work over many years often.  Now and again a child prodigy will come along and now and again that child prodigy will become an incredible adult too and be the world leader in their talent.

James Galway was born in Belfast in 1939.  His parents were both musicians and he was given a small flute as a boy to play on.  As he grew up he entered music competitions, won them, and then went to the Royal College of Music in London and followed this with studying at other world-renowned music establishments in Europe.  After his studies he played in several famous orchestras around for the world for fifteen years.  After his stint playing in an orchestra and being the soloist in orchestras around the world he became a soloist in his own right and still is to this day.

What sets James Galway apart from other flautists is him.  He has worked hard all his life – his practice on the flute adds up to over 11,000 hours (this equates to 458 x 24 hour days, or 1,833 days if he did 6 hours practice a day, and on top of this his actual hours in rehearsals, concerts, master classes etc) plus he has contributed to the world of music, and to this day he is still touring, giving masterclasses, has an on-line teaching website and is still active in the music world.  His albums have sold over 30 million copies and he has played on numerous film scores and given hundreds of concerts.

He is clearly naturally talented and has an amazing flute that is custom built, but I bet he can get a decent sound out of a student flute and play it to an amazing level.  Over the years James Galway has had several flutes but now he has a custom made Nagahara flute.  He has the flute made especially for him with adaptations that suit his style of playing.

James Galway clearly has a natural talent but his work on his flute playing will be second to none in the music world.  It is reported that James Galway was late to his audition for the Berlin Symphony Orchestra and initially refused an audition.  He insisted on being heard and did such a superb job that he was offered soloist in the orchestra.  He could play any orchestral extract asked from memory unlike many of the other applicants for the job.  His breathing technique is also legendary and his control of tone, intonation and knowledge of the flute itself sets him apart in the flute world.  His total commitment to what he is doing for the world of music is what makes him a household name.

Life hasn’t always been kind to James Galway.  Over his life he has endured broken bones and lengthy stays in hospital whilst recovering.  He has also had an operation when it was detected he could be prone to a heart attack.

He has received accolades all his adult life and was knighted in 2001.

To be famous, or a household name takes more than just one aspect in a discipline.  Not only do you have to be superb at what you do but you need the personality and personability to be approachable, open-minded, hard-working, dedicated and to give something back.  Sir James Galway certainly ticks all the boxes and has led a full, exciting musical journey and inspired people around the world and raised the profile of music across the board.


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