Gabe Orients jazzes things up with his own beat
Gabe Oriente travels to a different beat, a jazz beat. The gifted saxophonist and his recently-formed Big Time Jazz Combo are carving a cozy niche in the Park City music scene. He just got his driver’s license this week and hopes to carve a bigger niche when he gets a car. It will come as no surprise to those who know him. It’s evident in a conversation with the precocious, articulate teenager that he’s not a typical sophomore.
At barely 16 years old, Oriente has hitched his wagon to a star he hopes will shoot him toward a big-city career blending the two things he’s most passionate about music and business. "Business is not something most musicians think about, but it’s important if you want to make a living doing what you love," he notes.
Oriente was born in southern California and moved to Park City eight years ago with his parents and younger brother and sister. A resident of Ranch Place, the Park City High School sophomore describes himself as outgoing, happy and curious. He says he’s also talkative. "That’s something my teachers may not see as a strength," he admits.
Although he’s only lived in California and Utah, Oriente is a world traveler. "I’ve traveled abroad with my family almost every summer since I was in the fourth grade," he says. "My parents have always thought that it was educationally stimulating. It’s really impacted me to see how other people live."
"I’ve been to Canada, England, France, Switzerland, Italy and some other places," he continues. "I love being culturally immersed — seeing the sights, tasting the foods, meeting new people. Once we were standing on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris in the evening and the lights came on all the way down the Champs-Elysees. I will never forget that."
Oriente came to music the usual way. "We had to learn to play an instrument in the fifth grade and I picked the clarinet," he says. "My dad had an old saxophone lying around that he didn’t play anymore, so I picked it up one day. That was it for me."
The budding musician has blossomed into a promising young talent on the Utah jazz scene. Why jazz? It’s a question Oriente says always comes up. "You’d be surprised how many kids my age are into jazz and participate in the jazz program at school," he reveals. "I listen to every kind of music, but there’s a lot more to jazz than you might think."
"I started playing jazz in the eighth grade. I really got into it and I just loved the sound that came out. It’s so free-spirited and there’s an interaction between you and the instrument that I really enjoy," he confides.
Oriente isn’t resting on raw talent. He’s working hard to learn both the art and technique of jazz at The Music School, a prestigious Utah County music Mecca.
"It’s kind of hard to believe that this internationally acclaimed school is sitting in the middle of American Fork," he jokes. "Two years ago, a group from the school went to the North Sea Jazz Festival and they killed it [performed well]. Next year they’re going to Japan. My goal is to get good enough to be able to travel and compete at this high level."
Oriente notes that three of the five members of his jazz combo also study at the American Fork school. All the band members are students at Park City High and play in the varsity jazz band. "I love playing with them and learning from them. They’re all really talented, amazing musicians."
The emerging jazz artist and bandleader credits his parents with much of his newfound success. "I’d be lost without my dad’s help," he confesses. "Coming into this, I was oblivious to marketing and advertising. Since he’s a business and advertising coach, I really needed his instruction. He’s helped me get my name out there and showed me what I need to do." Oriente recently launched an e-mail newsletter to promote Big Time Jazz.
"My mom helps me with the business too," says Oriente. "My school day starts at 6:30 a.m. with varsity jazz practice. I’m not always home right after school because of band or tennis practice or other stuff, so she takes care of things that need a quick response. My parents guide me and then I try to put it all together," he concludes.
After high school, Oriente says he wants to attend a major business college back East, preferably in New York City, Boston or Chicago. "I’ve always been fascinated with the workings of the corporate world and interacting with business people. Mixing that with music seems like the perfect fit for me." His penchant for big cities and cultural diversity was acquired during his international travels.
That also explains his only pet peeve about Park City. "The one thing I miss here is the cultural and ethnic diversity I’ve found in big cities. I miss the different people you can interact with," he laments.
Oriente is a realist when it comes to his future in the music world. "It’s not so much about talent, there are a lot of talented people out there," he says. "The people who do really well are able to mix the business side with music. You don’t always see it, but it has to be there."
For now, Oriente is happy in Summit County. "I absolutely love Park City," he says. "I love the mountains and the people here. I also like Park City High School as much as you can like any school," he hastens to add.
Oriente’s jazz combo has been busy recently with "gigs" throughout the area. They’ve played at the Jan’s Winter Welcome, fundraisers for Arts-Kids and the Winter Sports Alliance and for several private parties. Next on their agenda is recording a demo CD to add to their newsletter. Oriente says he wants to start working with corporate event and wedding planners.
Although he’s studied French and Chinese, Oriente has already mastered the universal language. His music will be his ticket to the world.
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