Acoustic Guitarist | Dame Joan Sutherland Fund Recipient
Gabriel Andrews is an emerging Australian acoustic guitarist and Dame Joan Sutherland Fund recipient, taking first prize in the 2014 Wilson Centre International Guitar Competition (Milwaukee, USA), and opening for Canadian Guitarist Jesse Cook in the evening showcase. Currently employed by the Peck School of the Arts (PSOA), University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (UWM), he works as a tutor in The Bachelor of Music program while completing a Master of Music (MM).
For Gabriel, composing and performing are a way of life. He hopes his music transcends just the notes, to express deep emotion, and encourage in listeners self-reflection and a desire to live a fulfilling life.
Find Gabriel on social media at Gabriel Andrews Fingerstyle Guitar or on his website www.gabrielandrews.com.au
Tell us a little bit about your background – where did your interest in music begin and specifically acoustic guitar?
I started playing guitar at the age of six, when a family friend gave me a small nylon string acoustic to begin learning on. However, up until I entered the Melbourne University Conservatorium of Music my primary focus was electric guitar. My teacher at the Con Lucas Michailidis, himself a renowned steel-string acoustic guitarist, exposed me to the vast world of instrumental guitar. The rich sound coming from a single instrument fascinated me with artists such as Michael Hedges, Pierre Bensusan, and Billy McLaughlan inspiring me to take a new direction with my playing. I felt it was the acoustic guitar that gave me the best form of expression and I have not looked back since adopting the instrument.
Who is your greatest musical inspiration?
My greatest musical inspiration is Michael Hedges. Hedges transformed what was possible on the acoustic guitar utilizing altered tunings, extended techniques, and creating an entire orchestral texture on a single instrument. His album Aerial Boundaries marks a pivotal moment in the history of the instrument and can be seen as an antecedent for countless artists and compositions that followed.
What inspired your move to the U.S. and why did you choose Milwaukee?
On the surface Milwaukee is an unlikely choice for an aspiring musician. However, it is there, in the heart of the mid-west that you can find the only bachelors and masters program in finger-style guitar in the world. Established by Professor John Stropes in 2004 at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, the program attracts young players from around the globe searching to learn about this emerging genre. I successfully auditioned into the masters program in 2013 and with the aid of a Chancellor’s Scholarship and assistance from the Dame Joan Sutherland Fund, I am now just a few weeks away from graduating. Living and studying in the United States has given me the chance to work with some of the leading contemporary players from around the world including Italian Pino Forastiere, Englishman Clive Carroll and Mike Dawes, and Americans Alex de Grassi and Billy McLaughlan.
What experiences and opportunities have you had so far that are unique to the U.S.?
Everything that I have experienced thus far is unique to the U.S. There is no where else in the world that could have offered me master classes with the foremost contemporary guitarists, or the exciting learning environment found at UWM, surrounded by like minded, hard working students focused on finger-style guitar. Whether it be competitions, festivals, or performance opportunities, the United Stares offers more than any other country.
What was the greatest challenge you faced when you first moved to the U.S.? Do you have any advice for other emerging Australian musicians looking to make the move?
Arriving in a new country with a suitcase and a guitar after selling or giving away all other possessions was both an enormous challenge and a great opportunity for me. Daunting as it was, I embraced the move, making new friends and immersing myself in the diverse culture and experience that is the United States. While I miss my family and friends in Australia I don’t regret the decision for a second. The biggest advice I could give is say “Yes” to everything and experience as much as possible, take every opportunity, and don’t let fear stop you from following your dreams.
Where in Australia is ‘home’ and what do you miss most about it?
I grew up in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges located about an hour from Melbourne, Victoria. Subsequently, I moved into the city during my bachelor degree at Melbourne University. Compared to Milwaukee, which only has a population of 600,000, Melbourne felt like a large bustling city and I really miss the city's energy and its livability. I lived in an amazing apartment on the corner of Collins and Swanston St, at the centre of the city, and yet it was so easy get around whether by foot, bike, tram, or train. The most noticeable difference is the weather. I had only been to the snow fields two or three times in Australia, so experiencing an entire winter with snow covered streets and extreme temperatures was definitely something new. The beauty of it took my breath away and while I am not sure I could survive too many winters, I have cherished the opportunity to live here and experience it. We are so lucky in Australia with the phenomenal beaches and summers, and it is something I miss.
What is your favorite music venue?
At age 15, I performed with my band Flavus at Rod Laver Arena as part of the Rock Eisteddfod National Battle of the Bands. My group performed for 10,000 people, going on to take first prize in the competition. While each performance has a special place in my memory, this night always comes to my mind when thinking of favorite venues.
What is the most exciting project you are working on right now?
I am currently preparing for my capstone performance in Milwaukee that marks the completion of the masters program. I am so excited to get up on stage and show how far I have come in the past two years. It has been such a steep learning curve and while mastering an instrument is a life long obsession it has been gratifying to witness the improvement during my time in the U.S. On May 8th I will present the performance, more information is available through my website and FaceBook page.
What are your plans for the future?
I graduate from UWM in May and will be travelling around the United States building exposure for my guitar playing and compositions. I hope to establish myself as a solo performer as well as accompanying and collaborating with other artists.
How can people find your music and stay up to date with your activities?
You can stay up to date with me on my website www.gabrielandrews.com.au, and on Facebook and YouTube at Gabriel Andrews Fingerstyle Guitar. My album Pathways can be purchased through my website or digitally on iTunes and Amazon. My music can also be streamed on Spotify.