Profile: Christian Gallant
by Jane Ledwell
Forty-six musicians and step dancers took the stage at this year’s closing show of the Acadian Festival, creating a lot of work for the show’s artistic director, Christian Gallant, charged with keeping tabs on them all. As a contract event organizer, stage manager, proposal writer, communications and marketing expert, and social media voice, you could say Christian performs his juggling act—behind the curtain.
“I am Acadian, originally from the Évangéline region, and the community prides itself on culture,” Christian says. His parents were musical, he says, and “I’ve always been involved in culture because I did things in the community.” As a musician and song-writer, he recorded a demo in about 2006—but found his calling as a multi-skilled cultural promoter after studying Music Industry and Performance at the College of the North Atlantic, in Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador—a two-year program focused on everything from sound recording, to doing sound for live events, to music industry contracts and royalties.
What followed was a dozen “years of variety,” Christian says, working (mostly on the cultural side) with employers including the Société Saint-Thomas d’Aquin, the East Coast Music Association, La Belle Alliance, RDÉE (regional economic development), Canadian Heritage, the Canadian Cancer Society, and Confederation Centre of the Arts—landing as self-employed in the PEI cultural sector.
“The people in the Francophone world in PEI who do the types of things I do are few and far between,” he notes—though he adds gratefully that the few do collaborate well across the far-between.
As a “dog dad” of three, he keeps a regular job with one employer, Global Pet Foods, for the “satisfaction of helping people.” He says, “I work a couple of shifts a week to balance my life and be with people, be social—otherwise, I’m working from home or coffee shops or on the road.”
He loves the work. “I get to work on my own schedule and with clients.” Even though his kind of work is in the background, hard-working clients “recognize other people working, and they are always grateful. Even on the artist side, artists understand all of the love people have working on these events.” He loves facing new challenges, too, giving the example of the Mont Carmel Summer Concert Series he organizes: “Even though I’ve been doing it 11 years, there are always new challenges.”
Christian’s skills could take him anywhere in Canada. “What brought me back here was obviously family,” he says. “I won’t lie—I don’t think Charlottetown is my home forever—but I have a house. It has a fenced-in backyard for my dogs. Two of them play flyball, and my flyball team is here, and my friends…”
Asked what he loves about the culture, he says, “I think it’s just—and it’s something I noticed in Newfoundland—it’s Islanders, it’s Acadians—we’re open and willing to help anyone. We’d give you the shirt off our back. We’re always looking at making someone feel welcome…
“In Acadian culture—and I’m sure it’s the same in the Anglophone world—traditions are passed from one generation to the other… It’s like a kitchen party—a song begins with one singer and is passed on to the next.”
Back to that Acadian Festival stage, Christian says, “I blocked a show to take six musical families and get different generations on stage at the same time. It showed the diversity in the families,” he says. He cites a child who performed a song with his grandfather that was written about a family dog of generations past—but others performed original contemporary songs or told of new traditions blending cultural backgrounds. What inspired Christian most was “seeing the reception of everyone at the show—the acceptance, the growth, the youth supported to do their thing.”
Running his own business, Christian says, “I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow—I’m always searching, always on the hunt—and I’m planning for the long-term as well. It can be stressful, but it’s interesting.” Fortunately, he says, “I don’t see things slowing down at all in the PEI cultural sector.”