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Singer-songwriter Gabriela Martinez, a senior at Franciscan University of Steubenville, hopes for a musical career in the years ahead. Interview by Joseph Pronechen.
BY Joseph Pronechen
Not once during the 13 years she studied piano in Fort
Myers, Fla., did she think of composing a song — but when a friend suggested
she try, Gabriela Martinez wrote a whole CD’s worth.
That led to the recording of “Light Unto the World,” a set
of original religious songs available at GabrielaMartinez.com.
Today, as a 22-year-old senior at Franciscan University of
Steubenville (Ohio), from where she will graduate this spring with a degree in
humanities and Catholic culture, Martinez is putting together her second album.
Martinez composes in a meditative, lyrical style and sings
in a clear soprano. She has given concerts in Florida and on-campus
coffeehouses, and acts as student group leader of the music ministry at
Steubenville. She spoke about her songs, music ministry and goals with Register
staff writer Joseph Pronechen.
When did your interest
in music begin?
For as long as I can remember I always had a passion for
music. My mom tells me I was singing before I was speaking. I studied piano for
13 years. That grew out of being homeschooled. My mother was very good about
plugging us into a lot of different things that we all excelled in. For me this
was not only classical piano but also singing.
Do you have any help
in composing your songs?
If I think I’m going to write a song today, I can’t do it.
It’s a humbling thing because I have to be present to the Lord. It’s really his
work. He sits down with me and we write the song together. It’s cooperation on
my part. I share with the Lord in this active writing of a song and creating a
piece of music.
How did your first
songs come to you?
I had a car accident when I was 16, and one of the songs
stemmed from that experience. It’s called “Why God?” I was asking, “Why did you
let this happen? Why do I experience all this pain and sorrow?” — and then
realizing in the midst of the pain he’s right there with me, carrying the
burden and sharing the pain, showing nothing is too hard to handle.
A lot of my music has grown from the experiences through
which the Lord has taught me something. And a lot has stemmed from experiences
I have had on my walk with the Lord and the words that he has spoken to my
heart that have been a grace and blessing to me.
Your songs are quite
personal in their details yet universal in their themes.
They spring from my heart and the encounter with the Lord in
the depths there. It’s a vulnerable thing because I share the deepest parts of
my heart with others.
In a lot of ways, these are the words he has spoken to my
heart, and I can’t keep them to myself. They’ve been a blessing to me, but I
have to share them with the world, to keep speaking the good news of peace and
For example, I wrote “Transfigure Me” on the feast of the
Transfiguration. Sometimes I wonder, “How could I have written this?”
The Lord stepped in and wrote the song along with me,
knowing exactly what I needed to hear and continue to need to hear. He’s doing
the work of perfection and transfiguration with me every day.
What are your favorite
subjects and themes?
Trust, surrender, abandonment to his love. “The Present
Moment” grew out of my experiences studying in Austria. It was a semester in
learning how to surrender, especially from my need to have a plan with all the
ducks in a row. The Lord used that semester to teach me how to abandon myself
entirely into his hands. We can make plans for five years down the road, but
the gift the Lord has given us is this moment right now.
We have to surrender the need to have it all figured out. We
have to trust in the Lord and know whatever he has planned for the future is
perfectly suited for us.
Your two Marian songs
bring this out, too. What’s the story behind “Fiat”?
I wrote that song after my family had the blessing of going
on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. While I was there I meditated mainly on the
union between the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart — “Not my will but
yours be done” in the Garden of Gethsemane, and “Let it be done to me according
to your word” at the Annunciation.
In the last part of the song I’m asking both Our Lord and
Our Lady to help me have the ability for that same Yes, embrace it and accept
that mission or role, whatever it is, because nobody else can do the work only
I can do. That applies to everyone.
Tell me about your
pro-life sno that has moved listeners.
I wrote “Let Me Live” specifically for my first pro-life
concert two Christmases ago to be a conversation between the unborn baby in its
mother’s womb and the young mother herself. Both are crying out to the Lord in
fear and desperation: “Is there anyone listening to me? Do you hear the cry of
the brokenhearted? … Please, Lord, let me live.”
The mother doesn’t want to give up her child, and the little
one is crying out, too. We live in such a culture of death that more and more
is ready to hear this message of hope and life.
Tell me about your
music leadership at Franciscan University.
There’s no more beautiful use of music than in the liturgy
of the Mass. I try to do a blend of the traditional hymns and the more
contemporary praise-and-worship songs. I came from a more traditional church
back home, but I also fit into the praise-and-worship [category] because my
family has had a charismatic prayer group for as long as I remember.
What are your plans
I would like to see what opportunities and doors the Lord
has for me to walk through. I would love to sing full-time and keep writing and
recording and develop a ministry to hurting hearts to let them know the Lord is
waiting to shower his love on them.
There can be no greater blessing than doing what you love
for who you love.
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen
writes from Trumbull, Connecticut.
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