Gabriele Leite

Gabriele Leite could foresee her life’s calling when she was still a little girl. All she had to do was pretend to play the guitar on a broom.

Total dedication to music, research, and performance is the life story of this young woman from Cerquilho, São Paulo, born in 1997, the daughter of a seamstress and an auto mechanic. 

Gabriele got her first real guitar from her grandfather at 6 years of age. She has grown since then and is now engraving her name in the list of the greatest Brazilian instrumentalists of all time. The little girl began her first formal musical studies in a social project called Projeto Guri, from her first lessons in posture to her initiation in reading sheet music. It was a leap from there to the Tatuí Conservatory: at age 11, she began more in-depth training in guitar and various subjects like theory, perception, and choral music, earning a scholarship in the last two years of the course. She spent her mornings at regular school and her afternoons in the conservatory. 

When she enrolled in UNESP in 2016 for the B.A. degree with a major in classical guitar, the young woman from Cerquilho had already participated in the Souza Lima contest, among others, formed a duet, played in camerata, and was earning her living with her music. During her undergraduate training, she won the Magda Tagliaferro Scholarship Program promoted by the Society for Artistic Culture and studied under Prof. Dr. Paulo Martelli.

Martelli not only supervised her study of the repertoire for contests and festivals, but convinced her to live abroad, echoing what Sérgio Assad had recommended years before to the young guitarist, whose concert he had just attended awestruck at the Assad Festival. Gabriele developed her plan to live in the United States during her years of study at UNESP. 

In 2018, her presence became a must for initiates to the world of classical guitar. In less than 15 days she won three of the most important contests in Brazil: Souza Lima, Musicalis, and Assovio Vertentes. Impressed by her feat, the Society for Artistic Culture invited her to a festival in Germany. 

While at Koblenz, besides participating and reaching the semifinal in her first international contest, performing Edino Krieger’s Ritmata, Gabriele attended a masterclass with one of the world’s leading contemporary guitarists, the Scotsman David Russell. As they said goodbye, the master said to the disciple, “I’ll be waiting for you in the United States.” That is, Gabriele’s name and plans are not circulating only among Brazilian initiates …

A natural result of all this journey was that Gabriele received her Master’s degree with Honors from the Manhattan School of Music. Under the supervision of Mark Delpriora, she was the first Black Brazilian woman to graduate from that institution. 

After her name was included in the Forbes Under 30 list in 2021 (the first time a classical guitarist has been listed by the magazine); after she won the Young Revelation Award from Concerto magazine; after she won the Hubert Kuppel prize in Germany and the Lillian Fuchs Chamber Music Competition and Segovia Rose Augustine Award (both in New York); after she began her PhD studies in Musical Performance at Stony Brook University; after she was named by the Brazilian Consulate in New York to perform the opening concert for Brazil’s swearing-in as temporary member of the United Nations Security Council; after she performed at the musical opening of the gala dinner for the “Person of the Year 2022” event organized by the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce; and after she performed at the SESC Chamber Music Festival in the São Paulo Salon of the Timucua Arts Foundation, Gabriele will now launch Territórios, her first album. Rocinante is deeply happy to welcome her to the label.

With musical direction by João Luiz Rezende, the virtuosa returns to the above-mentioned piece by Edino Krieger (revealing the elements of choro in its structure), polishes a famous song by Villa-Lobos, celebrates Sérgio Assad, and dares to reread William Walton’s consecrated “Bagatelles”.

And to conclude this introduction with a spoiler, we take pleasure in sharing with listeners the invitation we have already issued to Gabriele Leite, to begin planning her next album ‘s repertoire.

Photography: Diego Bresani