Have you heard of him? He picked up an electric guitar not too long ago and began playing without formal lessons. His father’s own ability to play more than one instrument and expert musical ear guided young Gabriel and inspired him to do what most his age, cannot . Gabriel has been “gigging” all over town, making a name for himself in the rock, jazz and blues scenes. He is 12 years old. And he is my little brother.
It Starts Early
From a young age he was exposed to all types of musical influences. Our parents played a wide range of adult contemporary music in the house, including folk, blues, classic rock, and classical music. When I was 18, my brother was only three. I can still see him standing on my bed, shaking his head and playing air guitar to the Nirvana, U2, and Eric Clapton I played for him. He is too young to remember this. He is too young to know that at age three he was already practicing his comfortable stage presence for future performances to come. Once in the midst of a guitar solo, he leapt off my bed and landed on the floor on his knees, swinging his head side to side, eyes shut, as if the music made him do it.
When he was three and four, I know that he loved the Beatles. He knew all of the words to Hello, Goodbye, Hey Jude, and Love Me Do and sang along when I played them. We’d listen to Metallica and Alice in Chains in the car when I took him to the mall because I was sure our parents would not have liked their three year old singing along to such mature content. Don’t worry mom and dad, I turned the volume down anytime a lyric was too harsh and Gabriel would say, “Hey? Why do you keep interrupting the music?” I just said, “listen to this part, Gabriel, the guitar here is amazing!” And he would go back to bopping his head to the music and concentrating on what he heard as if it were his job.
I remember thinking that it would be good if my little brother was introduced to different music and talked to about it, although I don’t know why I felt that way. I know that I’m really passionate about music and perhaps just wanted to share my enthusiasm with someone who would listen. He spoke in complete sentences since age two and was both my younger sibling and a pal. Besides, our other siblings were old enough to know I talked too much.
There was something different about him, though. He displayed a strange sort of talent from early on. He could remember things. He met someone once and instantly remembered their name the next time he saw them a month later. When I argued with our other brother in a “he said, she said” fashion, Gabriel would remind us what each of us had said and help justly settle the score. Of course, our family will never forget how he watched The Master of Disguise and immediately memorized the entire script of the movie which he recited to my sisters and I one night with spot on detail and precision, including the accents and dialogues of every character in the movie. We looked at him like any concerned sisters would-like he was weird. I don’t understand how he convinced us to stand in the kitchen for this nearly two hour performance but he did. Now that he has found a passion in music, he devours guitar stats and artist info like he does food and spits it out like Wikipedia.
Catalysts and Culminations
It seems a love for music, a perhaps, genetically acquired and well rehearsed musical ear, and a freakishly powerful memory have now converged to create his present circumstances. I was not keenly aware of his talents even recently because of his friendly, charming, and chatty demeanor. He is indeed the quintessential annoying younger brother anyone would be lucky to have. Do not be fooled by this. Underneath the silly and energetic cover is a deep and caring boy, wise beyond his years, picking up the electric guitar with a sense of ownership and intuition that has pleasantly surprised us all.
He has had the luxury of learning from so many generous people. Several artists have given my brother a lot of attention and encouragement which is perhaps just honesty and kindness to them but means the world to him. To him it serves as a huge nod and push to keep moving forward in the face of enormous uncertainty and possibility that awaits him. I want to extend a personal thank you to those who have been so generous with their words, time, and talent with my little brother. You’re a gift to the arts and humanity.
People have asked our parents if he is a “prodigy”. The answer is no. Passion, hard work and dedication are the driving forces here. Our father guides and pushes him to continue learning and improving. Our mother who has a flexible full-time job, homeschools him and makes sure he practices his playing. Homeschooling allows Gabriel the opportunity to work long hours at a Music Lab for children located at The Jefferson Center where he has met valuable contacts and teachers. Homeschooling also lets him sleep in after a 11pm show on a school night. He knows he still has a long way to go but at 12, I’d say he is making good time. I’m so proud of my brother and our parents for working together towards a fascinating and exciting goal. If only all children had parents who recognized their interests and sacrificed this much to support them towards their destinies.
A little history about Gabriel
Gabriel started his musical interests wanting to play the violin when he was 7 and 8 years old. Our dad says he only coached him and this experience helped Gabriel learn how to read music. When he was in 3rd grade he submitted himself into his school’s talent show to sing and he grabbed the microphone with an ease and confidence not in sync with his claim to be utterly nervous. At age 10 he learned Santana’s Black Magic Woman. A few weeks later he composed his own song-lyrics and all. He sung it and played it on his first electric guitar at that year’s school talent show. His young peers cheered wildly. In September 2009 he received a combined birthday and early Christmas present which turned out to be a Gibson SG standard guitar. In July 2010 representing the Music Lab, he was featured on the TV show, Our Blue Ridge at the WSLS10 studio. In October 2010, he met the guys from the Jazz band called Snarky Puppy at the Jefferson Center’s Music Lab. They invited him to perform at Martin’s that very night-a performance that got the attention of Tad Dickens, a musician in his own right, who wrote about him in his Cut ‘n Scratch section in the Roanoke Times and was the one to dub him, Gabe “The Kid” Morales.
Hey, Bro, when you’re famous, don’t forget your sister and the time she blogged about you!
Here he is, online friends: Enjoy, Gabe “The Kid” Morales front and center along with the awesome Snarky Puppy accompanied by world renowned jazz drummer, Ari Hoenig playing Red House by Jimi Hendrix!
Many thanks to:
Mom and Dad
Ryan Keith Browning
Musicians and Bands:
Snarky Puppy (in 2010, in 2011 also with Ari Hoenig)
Bobby Thompson (Bobby Tproject)
Elmer Coles Funktet
Dr. Lonnie Smith (jam session/ master class)
Brooks Robertson (master class)