Most vocal performers wait a lifetime for the honor to sing with a prestigious major metropolitan symphony. Reisterstown’s own Gabe Orsini has earned the opportunity at the age of 13.
The Sudbrook Magnet Middle School seventh-grader, who became a bar mitzvah this past Oct. 15, will be singing with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra as part of its performance of Howard Blake’s score for the 1982 Academy Award-nominated short film “The Snowman” based on the beloved children’s book by Raymond Briggs.
Orsini will sing the only song with lyrics, “Walk in the Air,” for the BSO’s five performances, conducted by BSO associate conductor Nicholas Hersh, from Wednesday, Nov. 30 through Saturday, Dec. 3.
“Ever since I can remember, I have always loved to sing,” Orsini said via email.
In addition to his creative education at Sudbrook, Orsini has undergone intensive musical study through the ultra-competitive, internationally renowned Peabody Conservatory Children’s Chorus (through Johns Hopkins University) under the direction of Doreen Falby since he was 6 years old.
When he first found out about the BSO audition, he was “so excited that I spent that entire weekend learning the song. The weeks before the audition, I worked with my vocal coach to make sure I sang the song perfectly.”
Believing “Walking in the Air” to be “a really beautiful and magical piece,” Orsini said that when he sings it, “I can imagine flying in the air with the snowman and seeing the world below like the boy in the movie.”
“When I think about the story, I feel like it’s about friendship, adventures and imagination,” Orsini said. “I think these things are very important in life.”
Music is only one “big part of my life and happiness,” Orsini continued, adding that the support and encouragement of his parents (as well as big brother Max, 15, who plays the cello) are crucial to his success.
“Without my parents, I don’t know where I would be without my music,” Orsini said. “They encourage me to go after my dreams, try new things. … I’m very lucky to have a family that believes in me and supports me doing something that I love.”
“It’s really amazing to us, his parents, to listen to him sing,” said Orsini’s mother Carley. “We’re always kind of amazed what comes out of his mouth.”
Carley confessed that though she “can’t sing at all,” Orsini’s father can indeed “hold a tune.” The musical apple doesn’t fall too far from the maternal tree, though — Carley also attended Peabody as a young person and played cello in its orchestra for 13 years.
“So I had a little bit of what he has, but in my fingers,” Carley said, laughing.
As part of his multidisciplinary edification at Sudbrook, Orsini is also perfecting his skills with the double bass and theater performance.
Singing nevertheless remains Orsini’s indisputable number one passion, according to his mother.
“Gabe is very serious about his music,” Carley said. “He wants to sing forever. He loves everything from [classical singer Andrea] Bocelli to [pop star] Bruno Mars.”
Gabe’s precociously young age is something that his various instructors have been working with the singer on.
“Usually at Peabody, they don’t let boys take vocal lessons until they’re older than 13 since their voice will change,” Carley said. “But they took on Gabe because they wanted to work with him as his voice changed.”
Carley said that Orsini’s teachers, such as international opera singer and Peabody vocal department chair Madeleine Gray, “can sort of mold [his voice] into what it can be, letting his vocal cords do what he wants to do.”
“They say the quality of his voice should stay the same; it will just be [later as Orsini matures] an octave lower,” Carley said. “I don’t think he’ll ever stop singing. He loves it.”
Such determined labor is important in a performance of this level, especially as Orsini typically sings as an alto, and “Walking in the Air” is to be sung in soprano, a higher octave.
Another aspect of Orsini’s musical experience is how impressively modest he is in the eyes of his close-knit circle. Carley revealed that when Gabe first got the part with the BSO performance, he didn’t tell anybody at school, including his friends.
Gabe did not even reveal the great honor during an interview conducted with him for Baltimore County Public Schools’ Face of the Week at the end of October.
Carley had to write a letter to the principal to let the school know that, yes, Gabe would be soloing with the BSO, and they might want to be prepared for the press inquiries to come.
“He’s just excited to sing and the recognition is not important to him at all,” Carley said. “He’s really very humble, very encouraging to other people. He always talks about other talented people at his school and at Peabody. He’s very inclusive with everyone. He’s very cool in that way.”
BSO director of community engagement and education programs Nicholas Cohen was present at Gabe’s audition and agrees that aside from his obvious talent, the singer is clearly “an outstanding young man — all smiles and energy, which we like to see — even before notes came out of his mouth.”
“We love to see students with his talent, but also that he’s very enthusiastic to be doing this,” Cohen said.
The BSO and Gabe Orsini will perform “The Snowman” Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., Friday, Dec. 2, at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and Saturday, Dec. 3, at 11 a.m. Performances will take place at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St. For more information, visit bit.ly/2gb5jgj.