Day after day thousands of students of our University CEU Cardenal Herrera are flocking the campus to study and work in their Faculties of Health, Veterinary, Law or Humanities – thousands of students from all over the world having thousands of life stories to tell. Isn’t it high time to get to know some of them better? Gal Hiltch from Israel started studying Dentistry in September, he is a passionate musician and has a very special hobby: He builds instruments and has specialized in a traditional musical instrument from Ireland, the Irish Tin Whistle. Gal is telling us about his passion for Irish music, which was love at first sight, about the parallel between his hobby and his studies and his first impressions about Valencia.
Hello Gal. You started studying Dentistry at University CEU Cardenal Herrera in September, you are from Israel, a passionate musician and an instrument maker of Irish Tin Whistles. You have probably a lot to tell – what were your first impressions of Valencia?
Gal: It is actually the first time for me living abroad but I wanted to come to Spain – because I love the Spanish weather and culture and because I wanted to study at a renowned university of course. So far I really love it here – studying and living is great, the University is a very good university and the people here are always friendly and helpful.
Apart from being a student, I am a passionate musician and one of my hobbies is making and creating things such as musical instruments – I have specialized in Irish Tin Whistles.
The Tin Whistle is typical for Irish folk music – is it also an instrument which is common in Israeli music or where does this connection to Ireland come from?
Gal: No, the Tin Whistle is definitely not a typical instrument in Israel. But we have quite a lot of Irish Pubs in Tel Aviv, which is a very vibrant, young and tolerant city. There, on a concert of an Irish band, I fell in love with Irish music and the Tin Whistle – it was love at first sight! And in this very night I bought my first Irish instrument on the internet and later I bought another one and another one…
Wouldn’t Ireland have been the perfect destination for you to study at – why have you decided to study in Valencia, is there a big market for Irish Tin Whistles?
Gal: Even though Ireland is wonderful and I love Irish music, Spain – and especially Valencia – is the perfect place for me to study at. I love the weather, the culture and the open minded people. Valencia is also a very musical city – there are many talented musicians studying at the Berklee College of Music for example. So far, however, I have not discovered a big market for Irish Tin Whistles in Valencia but the reason why I make those whistles is not because I want to make a lot of money by selling them. I have a passion for mechanics, building instruments is like a therapy for me.
Is it essential to know how to play the instrument for being able to make it?
Gal: Well, for making a whistle, you must be a very, very good musician – it is absolutely important to know the sound of a whistle to make a good whistle of high quality. I try and test every single whistle I build – because I just sell the whistles I really like. I keep the others and look at them again so that I can improve them, so that I know what has gone wrong. Quality is the watermark of my whistles. I am an autodidact – not only as a musician. I always want to try things out and discover something new – the best way to learn something is to teach yourself.
Have you been to Ireland to get to know the original sound of the whistles?
Gal: Yes, I spend some time in Ireland to travel around the country, and also to listen to Irish music and buy some Irish instruments there. Irish musicians improvise a lot and are much more flexible and creative when producing some music. That is exactly the way of music I like – I have enough freedom to live my creativity.
Does the parallel between your special hobby and your Dentistry studies lie in your talent for mechanics? How much of making the instruments is mathematical design, and how much of it is intuition?
Gal: Definitely! I have always been interested in mechanics, in how things work. The first thing I constructed was a carbon bicycle. I like working with different materials, with wood, carbon and many others. I just investigate on how it is made and try it by myself. The reason why I started to make tin whistles actually was that I wanted a Blackwood whistle – but as they are very expensive I thought I could just make a whistle that looks similar with another material. I am also a passionate musician but I would always rather take a hammer than a flout. Making those whistles is a hundred percent intuition. Of course, I have the adequate tools for it but there is almost no mathematical design involved. This passion for mechanics also helps me in my studies – I just love doing various projects at the same time, my life is never boring.
Are you planning to start the “CEU-Flute-Orchestra”?
Gal: There are many talented musicians among the students here at University CEU Cardenal Herrera, there is also the Dentistry CEU Chamber Orchestra, for example. But for me playing in an orchestra is something I cannot do. I need liberty and I need to improvise – so I would probably rather found an Irish University Band than an orchestra.
You have already finished your studies of Medical Research at the University of Jerusalem, do you want to enjoy the Spanish version of student life now or why have you decided to start the studies of Dentistry here at University CEU Cardenal Herrera?
Gal: Although I enjoyed my studies at a very good university in Jerusalem, I have always been interested in Dentistry. My father is also a dentist so I have always had this connection to this field of medicine. After graduating I worked as a research assistant at the university and as I had so many ideas and plans in my mind I decided to start my studies here at University CEU Cardenal Herrera. I got here in September and I have not regretted my decision so far – the university here really does its best to make studying as interesting, practical and qualitative as possible. I really love living and studying in Valencia.
Having so many interests and talents – what would you consider your dream job? Being a researcher, a dentist, a musician or an instrument maker?
Gal: My dream job is to be happy with what I do and keep my mind stimulated. I get this from building things, whether in music, medicine or mechanics. I am not going to stop with any of them because it is more of a therapy for me than a job, so the dream job is to continue the integration of them – with bigger machines. In my summer holidays I will actually make a machine for the University here – so that might be the first step in the right direction of combining my hobbies and talents.
Do you still have some free time to discover and enjoy Valencia’s beach and sights?
Gal: Although I really have many projects and work to do, I have some free time left to discover Valencia, of course. I really like the Spanish food and culture. In my flat here in Valencia, I even have a little garden with vegetables and herbs – sitting there, enjoying good food and the sun and playing the guitar is absolutely wonderful!