Gabriel Gotz awarded the 2023 Frank J. Farina Award for Musical Excellence

Playing piano has been my passion for thirteen years, defining my character and influencing my

personality. I have loved every bit of it – the lessons, my teachers, and especially playing recitals. I performed in the lobby of Heinz Hall and on local radio shows. I looked forward to learning new pieces and listening to the audience cheer after I played.

After some years, my teacher, Ms. Sonia noticed that my interest in classical music was starting to fade and that I needed more room for creativity. She introduced me to more lively pieces like “Stormy Weather” and “Night and Day”. I joined some jazz workshops and my dad took me to listen to live jazz. Seeing the musicians perform with what seemed like complete ownership of creative expression sparked something in me. I loved the freedom of expression of jazz piano. At age twelve, with my parents’ and teacher’s support, I left the music school for a new world of chord charts, improvisation, and music theory with Dr. Ron Bickel, at Duquesne university. Taking a risk and stepping into this new world of jazz piano allowed me to realize the sound and freedom I wanted out of music, and gave me confidence to pursue my passion with renewed vigor.

While studying at Duquesne, I stumbled upon a workshop held by New York saxophonist, Antonio Hart, at the Afro-American Music Institute. This haven of jazz is where I met my current piano teacher, Howie Alexander. He asked me to jam ten minutes after we met, and I was immediately hooked. His glowing personality, amazing talent and style, and eagerness to play and teach made him the embodiment of jazz. He gave me incredible growth in my skills and my creativity, and kept my passion for the jazz world alive. In my four years as a pianist at NA, I have performed in the top jazz ensemble- Jazz I. Thanks to the mentorship of Mr. Baldanzi and Mr. Stefan, Jazz I has created an amazing opportunity for me to indulge in the music that I love, alongside others who feel the same.

The time spent practicing creates a moment each day for me to release my passion into beautiful pieces of music, defining my path and style as a pianist. I recognize and appreciate the milestones by which I have grown as a jazz musician and band member at NA. Florida State University is in the top 10% of universities in the country for music, and has a rich jazz scene with many prominent, visiting jazz musicians. During my undergraduate studies at Florida State University, I will take Specialized Studies in Music Entrepreneurship at the College of Music while studying Finance at the College of Business. I will also audition to participate in FSU’s Jazz Ensemble. My goal is to start and manage my own record label in which I would have the opportunity to blend my primary interests of music, entrepreneurship, and artistic creativity in a way that also provides a platform for other young and upcoming musical creatives to expand on their dreams and become successful.