Welcome back, and happy 2019! We are excited to kick off the second half of our 2018-2019 season with our February Musician of the Month - Gabriela Bliss.
Gabriela is an active freelancing musician and private instructor in the Fort Collins area. She performs frequently in the Northern Colorado region, and is a regular at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse. If you’ve heard flute at an event, there’s a high likelihood that you’ve heard her perform! She maintains an active studio and is establishing herself as a strong pedagogical presence. You can read more about her on her website (gabrielablissflute.weebly.com).
We caught up with her recently to hear her thoughts about professional musicianship and classical music in the 21st century.
FCWS: Tell us a little bit about who you are and the role that you play in the Fort Collins Wind Symphony, and then tell us a little bit about your musical career.
Gabriela: I am Gabriela Bliss, and this is my first year as the piccolo player for the Fort Collins Wind Symphony, although I have subbed for the group in the past. I got my Master’s in flute performance from CSU, and my Bachelor’s from Northern Arizona in music performance, and this is my second year being a full time freelance musician.
FCWS: Up to this point, we’ve featured mainly music educators – plus James David, our composer in residence, if you will – but you are our first gigging musician to be featured. Can you tell us a little bit about what it means to be a gigging musician?
Gabriela: Well it’s been amazing so far, but to be a gigging musician it’s about taking gigs wherever you can. Currently I’m at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse and freelancing and doing what I can to live this life! I’ve learned so much from working with colleagues around the Northern Colorado area. And it was scary at first when I quit my day job, but it was a risk worth taking.
FCWS: And I should mention that you are also a music educator, you’re not just a gigging musician. You teach private lessons.
Gabriela: That’s right, I have a full private studio, and I teach sectionals at various high schools in the area.
FCWS: Can you provide some honest insight for our readers: what is the job market like for professional musicians, and what does it take to be a modern professional musician?
Gabriela: Well in Northern Colorado, I’m going to be honest, it’s difficult. When I first ventured out into making this my full time career, it took me a good six months to secure a consistent gig. And up until then I was relying solely on my private lessons and the work I was doing at the schools. I believe a lot of time we get into this tunnel vision where our only careers as musicians are teachers and performers, but really there’s so much out there that is accessible to us. There’s composition, like Dr. David, and arts administration, and instrument repair. There’re so many things out there – like, we need more instrument repair people around. I think that’s just one of things we have to remember, to keep it open, and not just be in tunnel vision of one track.
FCWS: For our younger followers, can you tell us the skills you’ve developed or the skills you see in others that are necessary to be a successful modern professional musician.
Gabriela: Absolutely. One thing that I think is super important to stress is always be professional and punctual. I’ve had a couple times where I’ve lost gigs because I didn’t respond quick enough to the email. Be prompt with your responses. And then, being professional – what does that mean? Show up to your rehearsals well practiced, and early so you have time to prepare. A colleague told me recently to treat every performance like an audition, because you never know who’s listening.
FCWS: Now for something a little more personal, why did you choose a career in music?
Gabriela: Honestly, I chose it because I was very inspired working with professionals in high school. I just really enjoy playing in groups, that’s where I really thrive, and I love feeling that we’re all working together to accomplish this goal and entertain people.
FCWS: Do you see classical music as an important music genre for the 21st century, and for the most recent generation of individuals, Generation Alpha?
Gabriela: Definitely! I think especially with Generation Alpha, a lot of people are always on their phones, they have the technology right at their hands, but music is evolving to involve more electronics. It’s also very personal, and you have to communicate with people face to face to accomplish this goal, so I think it’s very important.
FCWS: So thinking about the value of classical music – its importance in the 21st century – what sort of value does an organization like the Fort Collins Wind Symphony have for its community?
Gabriela: Well I believe the Fort Collins Wind Symphony is very accessible to the community. Not only do they offer free concerts to the community but we’re performing music from all genres including from composers that are still living today. I think that’s super important. Just to have a group that is full of educators and musicians and composers, it’s a great pool for students to go to their teacher and say “I need lessons” or “Who can I talk to for composition?” or whatever it may be. There are people within our group that probably can do one of everything.
FCWS: Now, to wrap up our interview – thinking into the future, what does the future of classical music look like?
Gabriela: I think it’s looking very positive, to be honest. I have already a couple students who are juniors and seniors that are wanting to major or minor in music. Starting them when they’re in band is a great tool and they love it so much and they want to do something with it. I think that’s super important, to continue working on that skill.
FCWS: The future is bright.
Gabriela: Yes, it is!