August 23, 2010: The First Call to Singing

by Mary Galvano

They say in Italy that a baby knows half of what the parents know before he or she is born. I believe this to be true because my parents always filled the house with music and from the day I was born I was singing. From the time I could walk I was put into tap and ballet where I learned to sing and dance on stage in front of an audience in fantastic costumes. It was awesome!

Both my parents loved music, especially my late father Phil Galvano. He was always playing his guitar after dinner and I would sing along with him. We would get in trouble because this usually interrupted my chore of clearing the dinner table. Dad would play mostly Italian folk songs and he played and sang everything by ear. Growing up during the Great Depression, lessons were not easy to come by, so he had to learn on his own. Dad and I shared a love for musicals, classical music, opera and songs of yesteryear dating as far back as Al Jolson. These were my greatest teachers. Most of my parent’s friends were in the entertainment business like Perry Como and Frankie Lane, and two of my uncles performed for Vaudeville. This influenced me to entertain. Often during dinner I would disappear to my room to put a costume of some sort on and come out to sing. I would say, “Okay everybody! Here I am!” My family had a dinner theatre show every night. My father provoked it, too. Whenever we had company to dinner he would say at the end of dinner, “Mary, sing us a song!”

Although, my dad loved music, he was a well-known PGA Golf Professional of his day. I was trained at an early age to play competitive golf on tour. Since the age of three I have been competing and have won many events. Even today I am an LPGA Golf Professional and I still teach. However, when God puts a talent in you that He wants you to use, you will use it and nothing stopped me from singing.

As a little girl I was inspired by watching and singing along to Shirley Temple and the Donny and Marie Show singing ‘I’m a Little Bit Country’. In fact, there is a video of me interrupting my father’s recording of a golf lesson singing that song. Also, when Diana Ross would sing in her sequined gowns my eyes lit up! But my first solo debut as a spiritual singer came from the first pew inside our church, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Bradenton, Florida.

This would become my true calling. Whether people wanted me to do a solo or not, they got one! Whenever the song ‘There’s Just Something About that Name’ would be played I would sing it at the top of my lungs as loud as I could. I did not care that I was heard above everyone, even the musicians. Little did I know that I would be singing in church legitimately as a cantor years later.

My call to sing for the Catholic Church was not one that came to me at once but by grace through the years. It happened in His time. There were several revelations to this calling and they still are coming. Although, I enjoyed and sang songs of faith at home I was not one to sing in front of everyone at church. It was embarrassing for me to sing religious songs in front of my peers. I was in Show Choir in school, but this was different. My older sister, Liz, influenced me growing up with listening to Christian music and I loved singing about Jesus. However, this was not the career path for me as a singer. I am sure God got a real kick out of my plan for my life and what a surprise He gave me.

When I was thirteen years old on Christmas morning after all the presents were opened, I had a special present to give to my mother. At thirteen I didn’t have much money to spend on presents, so I gave my mother something I knew she liked hearing, Schubert’s Ave Maria. I remember practicing and practicing to our Pavarotti record with the words on the inside jacket cover. I am sure my Italian needed much work, but I knew the gift was just right for my mother when I saw tears in her eyes. To this day, I sing this version of Ave Maria, half Italian and half Latin. I always felt connected to Pavarotti because of this, but it was the Blessed Mother that led the way to sing. It is through the Ave Maria that my road was paved. This would be the song that would carry me through my life’s journey of music. Mom told one of the priests at our church about my singing the Ave Maria and he invited me to sing it. This became my first real solo in the Catholic Church.

It hasn’t always been easy, though. Not everyone approved of my singing. When I was eight years old in elementary school the music teacher told my mother I had no singing ability and dropped me from her class, and at the church where I first sang the Ave Maria someone complained about me and I was asked to stop singing for the church. This kind of thing happened to me often at the beginning. These negative comments, however, didn’t stop me from singing. They actually inspired me to sing more. God must have known I still wasn’t ready to sing for the church yet because I hadn’t really surrendered my voice to Him or learned the real purpose of my singing. It was when I did surrender my voice that the miracles started happening and doors started opening. He created my voice and He would make it more beautiful than I could imagine. He could make it take flight! This would be a lesson I would eventually learn the hard way.

Later on, though only in private, I started singing the Ave Maria again. I would sing the Ave Maria on my knees in the privacy of my bedroom while looking at a painting I found of the Blessed Mother at a Good Will store. It was here that I really started using my voice to pray. I still wanted to sing to an audience, though. So, when I was nineteen years old I saved up and bought a little amplifier and a microphone and with my tape of background music of the Big Band era I sang and danced for the elderly at rest homes. It was a moving experience to see the faces of the people to whom I was singing in these rest homes. A great lesson was learned and that was to not use my voice for selfish reasons but to use it to bring healing and joy to others, and most importantly to use it for God’s glory.

In the meantime, my career as a professional golfer was taking off and I began touring the country. Somehow, I ended up doing more singing on the road. I don’t know how this happened but through the free housing we got on tour at different golf courses, I ended up with Catholics. Each household asked me to sing the Ave Maria. Imagine that! I am trying to compete in a professional sport and here I am singing about the Blessed Mother. It became obvious to me why I was touring, and it was not just to play golf.

It came to be that the business of golf actually helped me on the mission of singing. God used it for me to get to people and to travel to places. Golf is not my vocation but it was an arena that welcomed my singing. Through playing and teaching I have been able to witness about God to so many. I guess that goes to show you, that God needs evangelists everywhere, even at the golf course. He will show up in the most unpredictable ways. When I was traveling through the Illinois cornfields from my summer job working for my family’s business, the Galvano Golf Academy, in Wisconsin to Florida, I received a message from my parents. My Dad was taking us to visit EWTN.

I had asked God what to do with my life since I have both careers going for me. My life’s work was changing before me and I was confused. I kept being drawn into singing for God. I heard loud and clear “Use golf to make a living, but sing for me.” I always remember this message. I knew this is what I needed to do. I needed to trust Him to take over my vocation and He did just that. God knows the heart better than anyone and He will make things happen. And for God, nothing is too big! No one can out give God!

PART 2 NEXT WEEK!

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