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Arise Music Arts Communication unleashes students' inner musician

For Susan Gabriel, learning an instrument is about more than notes on a page — it’s about communicating through a universal language.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. August 31, 2016
Photo by Nick Friedman
Photo by Nick Friedman
  • Arts + Culture
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Music lessons with Susan Gabriel aren’t like most others. To her, music isn’t something you learn; it’s something that’s inside of everyone. The instrument is just the outlet.

“What was the earliest form of music?” she asks. “Drums, and people creating beats. The first beat was the human heartbeat, so in a way, we were the first musical instruments. It’s more than a poetic notion to me. Music is who we are and what we were meant to be.”

That’s the theory behind Arise Music Arts Communication, the after-school music program she recently brought to Sarasota, through which she teaches students ranging in age from kindergarten to college.

Courtesy photo by Ann McGough
Courtesy photo by Ann McGough

To start, she lets students choose the instrument that interests them most — usually guitar, piano or ukulele — then uses an adaptive music curriculum to help them grow, both as musicians and people.

Together at Gabriel’s home, they learn basic chord shapes and song arrangements, slowly building a repertoire of original tunes to perform at a concert.

Her program meets students at their individual levels of experience, and then allows them to work in both group and one-on-one sessions to learn how to create music. The emphasis is on songwriting and personalized instruction from day one.

“The shaping forces of music are the same forces that shape human character,” she says. “There’s a sense of confidence you build when you’re creating music with another person. That’s especially important for younger students. That’s not a connection you can make over a phone.”

 Courtesy photo by Ann McGough
Courtesy photo by Ann McGough

Gabriel has spent much of her life working in various facets of show business, mostly as a television personality and a touring professional jazz and rock musician based in New York and California. She says music has had a  profound impact on her life, and when a performance brought her to Sarasota last year, she says she decided to stay and share her experience with local students.

“There was never any difference between me and music,” she says. “I never knew life without it. Growing up, we had a Steinway piano, a Hammond B3 organ, a player piano and a home studio. I was always playing, and from a young age, I entertained myself with piano, flute, guitar and ukulele.”

No matter the medium in which she’s working, Gabriel considers herself a storyteller above all else. And to her, there’s no more powerful tool with which to tell a story than music.

“Music is the ultimate form of communication,” she says. “It’s a language all its own, and it’s inside all of us. If you have a heartbeat, you have a song. That’s not extracurricular — it’s essential.”


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