Gabriela Martina is a composer, arranger, and bandleader. Released in 2016 with a four-star review from DownBeat, her newest album, No White Shoes, represents a major step in the singer’s sojourn as a 21st-century musician. Martina had the opportunity to perform and collaborate with heavyweights like Meshell Ndegeocello, Jack DeJohnette, and Angelique Kidjo. She recorded with veteran drummer J.R. Robinson and was a semi-finalist in the Shure Voice Competition at the 2009 Montreux Jazz Festival, performing with guitarist Lee Ritenour’s band. Martina released a critically hailed EP in 2010, Curiosity, which included her original song “Ain’t Nobody,” a finalist in the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers Foundation Young Jazz Composer Awards in 2012. She sings in four languages (German, English, French, and Spanish) and is currently performing with various groups up and down the East Coast. Martina owns her own booking agency called Red Velvet Sounds and is cofounder and curator of the In Momentum concert series.
Martina is a social activist who is passionate about learning more about other cultures, helping to develop a sense for community, and fighting inequality and racism. She is a strong advocate of causes that promote equal human rights independent of religious or political affiliations. From 2009 to 2010, Martina was the founder and president of the Cultural Leaders Club at Berklee College of Music, where students investigated causes and effects in terms of race, gender, and ethnicity issues. Sonic Relief, which Martina cofounded, was awarded the Berklee Urban Service Award 2016 for using music to aid people in need, such as organizing a humanitarian fundraising concert for Syrian refugees, featuring Simon Shaheen and the Lee Swensen Katz Trio in December 2015.
- Career Highlights
- Performed and/or recorded with major artists such as Angelique Kidjo, Jack DeJohnette, J.R. Robinson, Patrice Rushen, Meshell Ndegeocello, Bernice Johnson Reagon, David Fiuczynski, Dominique Eade, and Phil Grenadier
- Composer, arranger, bandleader of her own quintet (2010–present)
- Released No White Shoes (2016) with a four-star review from DownBeat, Curiosity (2010), and Empathie (2012)
- Bandleader/manager of booking agency Red Velvet Sounds (2014–present)
- Cofounder and curator of the concert series In Momentum Series (IMS), 2013–2015
- Currently actively performing on the East Coast with various groups (2008–present)
- Professional work as a performer and session vocalist in Switzerland, France, the UK, and U.S. (2000–present)
- Performed at 2009 Montreux Jazz Festival with guitarist Lee Ritenour’s band
- Worked as a costumer assistant at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York (2011)
- Recordings also include "Destiny" (2007), "That Is Simply Not Done" (Pink Bliss, 2008), "Jazzmood" (2004), not2help's "Stuff" (2004), and "When All Are Gone" (2002)
- Berklee Urban Service Award 2016
- Semi-finalist of the Shure Voice Competition
- Finalist of the ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Awards 2012
- B.M., Berklee College of Music
- B.M., MHS Jazz School in Lucerne, Switzerland, pre-course and two years of the bachelor's degree program, 2005–2008
- Diploma, vocaltech, vocal performance, songwriting, vocal styles, 2004–2005
- M.M., New England Conservatory
- Certificate of figure proficiency level 1 + 2 course completed, Estill Voice International, Arroyo Grande, California, 2016
In Their Own Words
"Staying authentic and purely yourself is not easy while everyone around you tells you what to do and what not to do, though that is exactly what makes a great artist unique and popular, especially in an academic surrounding with so many talented musicians around you. As a student, performing artist, and educator, I will always have as one of my ultimate goals to never lose my curiosity - curiosity for the other style or technique I don't know yet, the other artist I haven't discovered yet, or a new depth I haven't been able to experience yet through music. There is and will always be more, and that's the beauty of music. I try to help my students understand the benefits of staying open-minded and challenge them to do things they might not normally do to make them leave their comfort zone and dig deeper into the unknown."
"I want to make my students think about what they want to express with their original song or what the story is behind a cover song and in what social and historical context it has been written. I hope to make my students leave the lessons with at least one new idea that perhaps opens up a knot, be it with their voice or themselves as a human being. You are your voice. You are your instrument, and therefore everything is connected. Time and patience are the key elements to any success in a musician’s life. Much of the work lies in allowing all of your things you’re practicing and working on to settle; often it lies in silence."
"Being a musician is a lifestyle that doesn’t fit just anybody. It’s a lot of hard work with well-deserved rewards. Some singers forget that they have to develop a high level of musicianship in general and not only with learning how to sing nicely. Having a good sense for styles, rhythms, harmony, phrasing, technique, and much more is so important once the students are out there and performing in various settings on a regular basis. I try to prepare my students for a hard- working musician’s lifestyle, wherever it takes them."
"Being a freelance musician myself, I am actively performing and working on my craft every single day in many different genres. I can relate in many ways to a student who struggles with finding his or her own voice. Experience is something that comes with time and each individual experience nurtures your musicianship and artistry. There will be times when we have to record until 5:00 a.m., singing with a sore throat or smiling on stage when your beloved cat just died. The world outside of a music school like Berklee is not always kind and understanding and makes you sometimes work as a musician at times when you don’t feel like it. Being a full-time musician means understanding the world we live in as musicians. The beauty of being a musician is to actually realize that you can do the work you love and to always remember the time when this fiery passion started. It’s extremely stimulating and inspiring!"