The first time Gabi Wilson appeared at Listen & Be Heard Poetry Café was when she sat in with Alvon. After mesmerizing the audience with her rendition of Donny Hathaway’s “A Song for You” (both piano and vocals) she introduced herself to me by handing me her own business card which reads: Gabriella “Gabi” Wilson, Singer, Musician & Poet. Addressing me as Miss Martha, she told me that she would like to make an appearance at Listen & Be Heard Poetry Café and pointed out her parents to me, sitting on the couch beaming with pride. That was back in December of 2006. At that point Gabi had made a few spotlight appearances around the bay area with her dad’s band The Urban Bushmen. She had learned to play Donny Hathaway by ear, and had actually just begun to take piano lessons.
Not quite one year later I got a call from someone at the Ellen Degeneris Show followed about an hour later by a call from someone representing the Golden State Warriors, both wanting Gabi to make appearances after seeing her on The Today Show yesterday morning. Now ten years old she has caught the attention of the nation, something we knew would happen (my husband Tony and I, who opened Listen & Be Heard Poetry Café together in downtown Vallejo.) Gabi is an extraordinary young woman, who happens to be beautiful. Now that the big show is unfolding, I hope that Ellen and Oprah, and all the rest will recognize and help to cultivate what is still raw, albeit rare, talent.
Most talk shows (and basketball games) just want one song anyway, but musicians think in terms of a repertoire, and Gabi needed a place to stretch her wings and make a longer presentation, preferably not in a bar. We worked together with her parents Agnes and Kenny to present a concert with Gabi as the star of the show. A great time was had by all who could get in through the door. Word had already spread like wildfire. Gabi pulled up in a limousine, and pulled away a couple hours later with a bunch of her friends to cap their night off with ice cream cones. I’m sure those kids will still be talking about that night many years from now.
It would be easy for everyone to push Gabi into the role of a glamour queen. She is most certainly poised and beautiful. A patron of our cafe called for her to appear on American Idol, not recognizing that she is already far beyond that type of presentation. Rare is the American Idol singer who also plays an instrument. Gabi plays several. The mass media is likely to see her as a novelty, a cute little girl who can play and sing. I see her as a gifted woman in the making, with vast potential to create, innovate and lead a new generation of artists.
Gabi self-published a book of poetry even before achieving local notoriety for her singing and playing. Her next appearance at Listen & Be Heard Poetry Cafe was during our 5th Annual Listen & Be Heard Poetry Marathon on April 28, 2007. She took her place among a host of seasoned poets with poise and grace, reading poetry from her book. Perhaps one day she will write compelling lyrics that she will sing, and/or she will continue to write pure poetry. While the media tends to label and define people with narrow and strictly maintained buzz words, the creative person tends to be expansive and beyond classification.
The race will be on now, to grab Gabi while she’s hot. It has little to do with her roots. It is a credit to her parents that what is coming out of her is based on her experience at home. Her father Kenny has encouraged and nurtured her ability to play and sing. He is a professional musician with a strong musical background in Blues and Jazz. Her mother has obviously encouraged her every form of expression, helping her to achieve the goal of publishing her first book, and organizing and galvanizing friends and family to make each event a success. These are the things which will sustain Gabi in the days to come.
Here at Listen & Be Heard Poetry Café we are happy to have played the role we are here to play, encouraging and helping to develop local talent. Gabi made one more impromptu appearance, sitting in with the Talons just a couple months ago. She had arrived with her parents to enjoy the music, but obliged the requests of patrons at the cafe. Now she’s flying around the country with a promising but unknown future. We will be watching Miss Gabi as she blossoms and grows, and encourage all who come into contact with her to recognize the whole person, and play their part in nurturing her development as an artist.