Teaching Artist Spotlight - Gabrielle Stravelli
When asked what teaching artist Gabrielle Stravelli wants her students to leave her class, Swingtime, with, she exuberantly answered, “confidence!” And Gabrielle certainly knows how to instill that in her students. A trained actor with a BFA from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Gabrielle is an award-winning jazz singer who began singing at the age of 15 as a soloist with the Orchestra of St. Peter by the Sea in New Jersey. And she never looked back, singing on stages from New York to Amsterdam, and most recently touring Southeast Asia, Pakistan and Azerbaijan as a United States Department of State “Jazz Ambassador”. In 2017 Gabrielle was invited to be a master teacher for YoungArts (a national organization that organizes week-long intensives for artists 14-18 years old and connects them with professionals currently working in their chosen field) and has taught extensively for the Kaufman Center's Lucy Moses Special Music School.
Gabrielle explains that studying jazz is like learning a language, and she gives her students the tools to go home and practice - she empowers them to sing this amazing artform. Gabrielle admits that, “people get intimidated by jazz because they feel it’s intellectual, and it is, and it takes a lot of work. But jazz started as dance music. It’s joyful, fun and complex - these things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”
In the classroom, Gabrielle demonstrates techniques, shares exercises and has students listen to various versions of the same song to hear the possibilities. This past winter, she and her students explored how to develop a swing feel, they practiced singing different rhythm patterns, and how to improvise. They also learned how to adjust their singing style - for example if a certain section of a song needs to sound more like a horn - how to do that vocally. One student, Wendy Russell, commented “I thought I knew a little bit about jazz and she opened up my eyes and ears to so much more!”
In her classroom, her teaching style alternates between checking in with students and letting them inform her, while also pushing them out of their comfort zones. But the confidence piece is important to her. She shared that when she was at the conservatory the practice was to break students down and build them back up, but she doesn’t want that for the people who study with her. They can gain that confidence without the damage.
It’s clear that Gabrielle wants her students to have fun, first and foremost. For her, singing is her happy place, and she shares that feeling with her classes. “It’s always exciting for me to be in a room with people who have fun singing and are interested in learning more.”
And the learning is not one-sided. For Gabrielle, teaching what she does to others, having to articulate what she is doing, reinforces her own singing and performing. Gabrielle is looking forward to teaching Swingtime again in Fall 2019.
Gabrielle currently has a new album, Picking Up The Pieces, Gabrielle Stravelli Sings Willie Nelson, which you can purchase digitally on iTunes or Amazon or get a hard copy at CD Baby. To learn more about Gabrielle, watch videos of her latest performances, and find out where she is singing next, please visit her website http://www.gabriellestravelli.com