How This Started

written by Gabriela Lena Frank, GLFCAM Director

So… Am I yet comfortable saying this?  Here it is:

I landed fine. 

I still feel amazement and I don’t think I’ll ever cease feeling this way.  I firmly believe that only in the United States could a Peruvian-Chinese-Jewish-Lithuanian girl born with significant hearing loss in a hippie town successfully create a life writing string quartets and symphonies.  Work takes me on the road to see more of the world than I would have ever imagined, and my colleagues consistently fill me with awe and pride. Through it all, I find the opportunities for work beyond the concert hall into the realms of arts citizenship — Prisons, hospitals, underfunded elementary schools — and I'm humbled by how much more there is to do, always.

This Academy, then… Why now? Bueno, I suppose it has to do with a confluence of middle age when I'm finally able to unself-consciously say “I am a composer,” the turbulent political times we are in as a nation, and having a partner to dream with, emboldening me to dare the chances.  More and more, I feel that life is mercilessly short so let's just see what happens if I were to open my home to my colleagues and provide emerging composers a little hard-earned counsel ("Don't make that mistake I made!"), opportunities to work with my amazing performer friends ("She's a virtuoso... Go on, load up those triple stops."), and an über safe space to challenge one's creative habit ("This is a good first roll-out... Care to make your idea even more interesting?") 

Throw in other things that make life good: Home-grown/home-cooked food, laughter among new and old friends, a commitment to civic outreach, and a stunningly beautiful natural environment… Even if these retreats at the Academy are under a week long, I well remember those brief but intensely positive artistic experiences in my youth that filled me with such hope and resilience that I survived challenging artistic and professional situations later.

So… I landed fine and I want others to do so as well.  And I’ve got in mind a small yet potent school fashioned after my own vision of what makes an exemplary life for us creative types.  After all, we are supposed to dare to save the world — Yes, really —at the pace of just one isolated pitch of sound, one pizzicato, one held vibrato, one piece-ending starry clink of the triangle that is so simple yet so perfect.

Emerging composers… I am so very much looking forward to meeting and learning from you.  Cheers!



Gabriela Lena Frank is the director of the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music. Included in the Washington Post's list of the 35 most significant women composers in history (August, 2017), Gabriela was born in Berkeley, California. Winner of a Latin Grammy, she has composed for leading orchestras and worked with luminaries like cellist Yo Yo Ma, soprano Dawn Upshaw, the King’s Singers, and the Kronos Quartet. She also is a passionate believer in service, and has brought her love of music into hospitals, schools, and prisons. Learn more on Gabriela's bio page.

Torrey Douglass