WRTI Young Artist Spotlight: Violinist Gabriela Salvador Riera
Gabriela Salvador Riera is a 16-year-old vocal and strings major at Cab Calloway School of the Arts in Wilmington. She is the 2nd place laureate of the 2023 Sphinx Competition, junior division, and concertmaster of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra. Gabriela has been a PMAY (Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth) artist since 2020.
Currently, she studies with Shelley Beard at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia, where she also plays in the Advanced Study Snitzer Quartet. In 2022, Gabriela was awarded the Bruce Montgomery Foundation for the Arts Springboard Grant and was named high school winner of the Coastal Concerts Competition.
10 Questions with Gabriela Salvador Riera
1. Outside of your performance genre, what do you like to listen to?
I appreciate something different about all the genres I listen to. I love everything from Broadway to indie pop to jazz to R&B to bachata, salsa, and merengue.
2. What was one thing about your instrument that surprised you when you started learning to play?
I remember in one of my first lessons when I was 6, I was so surprised by the marks on the tips of my fingers from touching the strings. I thought there was something wrong with my violin!
3. What’s your favorite thing about Philadelphia?
I’ve always been a city person, and I think Philly is a beautiful one because it’s not too chaotic but has just enough of the hustle and bustle. My favorite place in Philly is the Kimmel Center (Kimmel Cultural Campus), the home of The Philadelphia Orchestra and so many amazing touring Broadway shows and chamber music concerts I like to attend.
4. If you weren’t involved with music, what would you be doing?
This is such a hard question because I can’t imagine a life without music, but think I would be doing something creative like architecture or graphic design.
5. What did you enjoy most about taking part in the Sphinx Competition?
I absolutely loved the sense of community and support I got during the whole process. As much of an anxious person as I can be, and despite the competition being a high-pressure situation, I felt so accepted and welcomed by everyone. I had so much fun performing onstage and getting to speak to and hear from some of the arts leaders I look up to most.
6. What or who do you consider to be your musical community?
I consider all of my peers, especially those who share my fervent love for music, a part of my musical community. My community is not complete either without my incredible teachers and mentors that have and continue to shape my own musical identity.
7. What’s it like to be a leader in the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra?
I would be lying if I said it was easy, but it's so rewarding. I've learned so much about responsibility and communication through my time as concertmaster. I'm really proud of the growth our orchestra has made this year.
8. What advice would you give your nine-year-old self?
I would tell myself to enjoy every single little moment and always keep my sense of wonder, imagination, and immense creativity in the front seat, because if I put that ahead of any anxieties, I'll be able to stay true to myself and believe in my voice.
9. What was an experience with a teacher or peer that was impactful to you in your music education?
In Fall 2021 I had an amazing and transformative experience when I was selected to be part of the first national cohort of Fortissima at the Colburn School, an artistic and leadership development program for high school girls from backgrounds underrepresented in classical music.
For six months, I was paired with and mentored by Karla Donehew Perez of the Catalyst Quartet. We talked about all things related to college readiness, career development, leadership, practice, and more. This culminated in an eight-day intensive at Colburn, where I met nine other aspiring female musicians like me. Led by Jazmín Morales and Jannina Norpoth, we met and learned from diverse female arts administrators and musicians about their careers, the conservatory experience, and how to explore our interests to build a career that suits us best.
Additionally, we had regular chamber rehearsals and coachings, playing music from diverse women composers, both historical and living. This culminated in a magical concert for an audience who deeply cared about what we had to say, and it was unlike any concert I've ever experienced. After the almost two years of COVID quarantine prior, this experience was especially impactful and the relationships I built there continue to be very special to me.
10. Who have been the greatest champions of your career so far?
I would not be where I am today without the mentorship and support from organizations like Sphinx and PMAY (Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth). They have given me a strong sense of community, and have provided me with countless opportunities to work with renowned musicians and hone my craft — opportunities I would not have had access to without their vision and support. My teachers over the last 8 years, Julianne Murphy Ruiz and Shelley Beard have also been champions of my career, and they have supported and challenged me as a musician and as a whole person.
And most importantly, my mom, who has been my number one supporter in every single musical thing I've accomplished.
Gabi's Recommended Playlist: