- Associated Press - Sunday, January 3, 2016

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) - Michael Gabriel comes prepared for hard work when he arrives in a new town for a concert.

Unlike other traveling musicians and bands, Gabriel will arrive weeks in advance to rehearse with local musicians who will accompany him on stage.

Gabriel, a singer-songwriter originally from Canada, has been performing his traveling concert series “Strings Attached” for five years. He’s currently working with musicians from the Wiregrass Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Tri-State Community Orchestra for a Dothan concert to be held at the Cultural Arts Center on Jan. 8.

He has played with rock bands in Canada and Los Angeles, but Gabriel said his classical guitar roots always beckoned. A few years ago, as the music industry was changing, he decided he wanted to develop a string-based show around his original music that he could take across the U.S. and Canada.

“The performer in me wanted to be able to put on epic shows,” Gabriel said. “So, how do we get orchestras involved? I cannot travel with all those numbers.”

The solution was to reach out to community orchestras and string academies, giving local musicians a chance to participate in a professional show and raise money ? 10 percent of ticket sales go back to the local orchestras or other designated charities. Gabriel sends the musical scores in advance so musicians can rehearse. Then, he arrives in town and begins rehearsing with the local musicians.

He began rehearsals with the Wiregrass Youth Symphony Orchestra a few weeks ago.

“It’s a lot of work getting everybody ready,” Gabriel said.

Of course working with different musicians creates some challenges. For the most part, Gabriel is “walking into the great unknown” with all sorts of skill levels among the violinists, cellists and other musicians he works with.

Gabriel said the “Strings Attached” concert allows even more inexperienced musicians to play even if it’s not for the entire concert. A core ensemble of musicians will perform most of the concert with Gabriel doing a few solo numbers.

“One of the pros is the fact that children or youth or adults are having an opportunity to do original material in a setting that for the most part is going to be different from their orchestral setting,” Gabriel said. “They’re getting a taste of pop music and it’s putting them in an environment where they contribute, even if it’s a song or two, to part of a professional show.”

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Information from: The Dothan Eagle, https://www.dothaneagle.com

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