Even before she glided her fingers across the black and white keys for the first time as a young girl, Gabriela Martinez was destined to play the piano. To say it was in her blood would be an understatement.
The passion to play the piano was rooted in her family tree. Her mother was a pianist. Her mother’s mother was a pianist. And so on and so on for five generations. So once she came along, this blond, blue-eyed Venezuelan girl, it was as if the piano sitting in her mother’s living room was awaiting her arrival.
One afternoon as Gabriela walked by it, around age six or so, she lifted her little fingers above the keys and began to play. And so her musical journey began.
Of course her mother was her first teacher.
“It’s literally in the blood,” Gabriela said during a recent phone interview. “I started playing at age six. It’s a huge part of who I am and my life.”
The musical journey that has taken the 29-year-old around the world, from Carnegie Hall in New York to Palace of Versailles in Paris, will bring her to Stockton. Gabriela will be the featured guest artist during an evening performance with the Stockton Symphony on Saturday, Oct. 26, at 6:00 p.m. Titled “Classics I: Russian Romance,” the performance will take place at Atherton Auditorium on San Joaquin Delta College’s campus (www.stocktonsymphony.org/russian-romance/).
The concert program includes Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2, which is described as “A towering monument of Romanticism …haunting melodies, lush orchestration, ending exuberantly in a blaze of glory.”
When the Stockton Symphony asked her to perform Piano Concerto No. 1 by Sergei Prokofiev, she could not resist. She is drawn to the piece for its variety. It contains beautiful melodies as well as parts that are very active and sharp, she said.
The piece has three sections that are quite dramatic and distinct from one another and there are no pauses in between. So it is quite challenging to perform.
“It really has a lot of different emotions and moods,” said Gabriela. “It’s just something that is really lovely to listen to and play.”
Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, Gabriela’s family began exploring the top music schools in the U.S. It was time to learn her craft from other musicians and teachers. Gabriela’s parents and brother settled in New Jersey so she could attend a pre-college program on Saturday s at Julliard, where she later earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree.
In moments of reflection, Gabriela thinks about how remarkable it was to have parents who would be willing and able to move to another country so their daughter could pursue music.
“Now when I look back, it’s like wow that’s so amazing,” she said. “I’m so grateful.”
When Gabriela left for college, her parents returned to Venezuela where her mother, Alicia Gaggioni, returned to teaching piano to young children.
Gabriela, of course, also teaches piano to young children amid traveling the world for her own performances.
“It’s in my genes,” she said. “It’s something so special. And I’m honored to be able to share that on a daily basis.”