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The Times
  • How Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez made it to Julliard at 11

  • But Gabriela Martinez, a 28-year-old Venezuelan pianist, had a different path. As a child from a musical family, she took to playing at a young age. At 4, she was given a violin, “but apparently it made me cry,” she says, and so her mother began her at the piano. It stuck.

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  • When most people hear “Venezuela” and “classical musician,” they assume the artist has been trained in that country’s famed El Sistema music program, which has turned out a startling number of exceptional players and created a culture of learning music in one of the most unlikely places.
    But Gabriela Martinez, a 28-year-old Venezuelan pianist, had a different path. As a child from a musical family, she took to playing at a young age. At 4, she was given a violin, “but apparently it made me cry,” she says, and so her mother began her at the piano. It stuck.
    When she was only 11, the entire family moved to New Jersey, so that Gabriela could begin lessons in the Juilliard pre-college division. “My parents decided I needed a new place, and a new teacher,” she says. “I was so lucky. I didn’t realize at the time what it meant, for everyone in my family just to move away like that. I did pre-college at Juilliard and stayed for undergraduate and master’s degrees.”
    There never really was a time that Martinez considered another life. “I always knew that I was going to play," she says. “It’s part of who I am, what I’ve always done and loved. It never seemed like a burden to me.
    “I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on things, mainly because, to me, it doesn’t seem like I’ve spent too much time at the keyboard. I learned how to practice early on. I rarely practiced more than five hours a day. After a while, you get to a point where your fingers know what they’re doing, and what you have to do is focus on your understanding and interpretation.
    “And for me, performing is the fun part. We work so hard on things, and then we finally get to play it. That’s the point when we get to share our thoughts and ideas about music.”
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