These Symphony-commissioned feature articles offer insights into the music you’ll hear in the concert hall.

Feb 1, 2024

Cellist Gabriel Martins

Gabriel Martins debuts at the Symphony in a Shenson Spotlight Series recital with pianist Victor Santiago Asunción, February 21.

What’s your process for preparing for a concert?

I like to think that I have been preparing my entire life for every concert. I believe that every experience one goes through builds into the artistry that they carry with them through their life. That being said, my specific preparation process is something often very intense, while staying holistic. It includes deep study of the individual pieces, trying to find the soul of the music, as well as work on the more technical aspects of playing in order for that soul to come through in the purest way possible. I treat every performance like it is the last I will give, and every listener like they are the last that will hear me. Of course, it is not clear that perfection in music is possible. However, the search for that perfection is what spurs us on. I do not believe in a specific point when a piece is "ready" for an audience, but I do believe in giving it everything you have, and constantly striving for improvement. 
What inspired you to pursue a career in classical music?

I was blessed to have grown up in Bloomington, Indiana, home to the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. This is an extremely historic place for classical music, particularly for cello, with the great Janos Starker having taught there for the majority of his life. My parents, who were biology professors at the university, decided to enroll me in cello lessons when I was a child. From the age of five until I left for college, I studied with a woman named Susan Moses. Susan continues to be a guiding light for me, and I honestly owe my life in music to her. She taught me the love for the art form, the seriousness of it, and the beauty of its expression. Beyond that, there were a number of artists that served as great influences and hero-like figures throughout my life: Glenn Gould, Daniil Shafran, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Sergiu Celibidache, and Johann Sebastian Bach, to name a few. 
What are some of your interests outside of music and how do they influence your creativity and artistic expression?

I've always tried to live by the saying “Music is about life, life is not about music.” My musical interpretations are a product of myself, but perhaps more so, they are a product of the people and the experiences that have been a part of my life. Before music became my primary pursuit in life, I was completely determined to be a professional basketball player. This developed a strong sense of work ethic and competitiveness in my mind. When I discovered "music competitions" and entered my first one as a young teenager, I failed miserably. I genuinely did not know that people practiced music for more than 30 minutes a day, and evidently, I was completely shown up. But that experience, for better or for worse, made me determined to come back and prove that I could do better. I did return to the same competition four years later, and the process of diving into high-level music making during those years is what made me really fall in love with the art form.

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