galen
“I want to show that it is possible to do music responsibly.”

For as long as he can remember, music and helping others has been part of Galen Detrik-Hartenberger’s life.

Growing up in Albuquerque with four siblings, Galen says he learned the meaning of generosity from his parents. “They sacrificed everything for their kids,” he says. “They poured so much into us.” When you grow up in that kind of environment, he says, you can’t help but appreciate the value of helping others.

His parents also taught him the value of great, and meaningful, music. Galen grew up listening to Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and Motown artists. He started playing guitar in the 9th grade at Albuquerque Academy and participated in the Classical Guitar program. Galen says former faculty member John Truitt has been one of the most influential people in his life.

But, when it came time to go to college, Galen decided to follow a practical career path, enrolling in the Civil Engineering program at New Mexico Tech, rather than pursuing music. After the first year, Galen transferred to the Biology program, earning a bachelor’s degree in 2007. But, music was still very much a part of his life.

After college, he took a couple of years off to travel, spending time in Israel, Greece, and the United Kingdom. When he returned home, with the help of an old friend, he stumbled into a job as a dental assistant and within days, decided to attend dental school.

While at the University of Colorado in Denver, Galen had the opportunity to join fellow students and faculty on a dental mission trip to Guatemala in 2011. “It was the most formative trip I have ever taken,” he says. “It showed me a side of dentistry that you don’t typically see,” he says, adding that the experience made him realize the importance of this kind of work.

The trip also had an unexpected effect, says Galen. “After that trip, I had the biggest songwriting streak of my life,” he says. “That experience changed the fabric of my existence.”

Galen became a cosmetic dentist, and about a year ago, he and his wife Davina (a classmate at the University of Colorado) attended a dental conference in Florida. It was at this conference that Galen met Adam Braun, the founder of Pencils of Promise, an organization that builds quality schools and provides sustainable educational programs in places where they are needed most.

PoP describes itself as a “for-purpose” rather than a non-profit, and it’s this purposeful mission that got Galen’s attention. He was inspired by Braun and his work, and with the help of Davina, Galen found a way to combine his love of music and his desire to help others.

In early 2014, Galen launched Ventriloquus, a visionary movement with the sole purpose of welding music and philanthropy together as the new industry paradigm. Ventriloquus released its first track, The Architect, online this week.

Galen decided to use a choose-what-you-pay model (with a minimum of $1.49 for the song and music video), bypassing the traditional music industry/iTunes route. Ventriloquus will donate the first $25,000 raised in full to PoP to fund the construction of a school, and 50 percent of the proceeds thereafter. “This enables us to give far more to the right causes and have transparency about where the money actually goes,” he says.

“The idea,” he says, “is to release a new song and music video every four months following the same rubric, partnering with game-changing charities and forward-thinkers.”

There is a catch though. Each new release will only be available for 40 days. This, he hopes, will encourage people to download the music – and help build a school – now!

For Galen, Ventriloquus represents the intersection of two very important aspects of his life. “It’s about music from the heart – not just about entertainment,” he says. “I want to show that it is possible to do music responsibly.”

Learn more about Galen’s project and download his music here.