By Sue Baldani
Husband and wife Chris LaRosa and Gabrielle Gaudreault of Haymarket have made beautiful music most of their lives. He, as a successful composer, and she as a highly-recognized conductor.
“I come from a very musical family,” said Gabrielle. “Both of my parents are professional musicians as are my grandparents, so I was exposed to it from the beginning of my life. I started taking piano lessons when I was 5.”
Chris was also about 5 years old when he started with piano. “I’m not from a very musical family like Gabrielle, but we did have some amateur poets in my family and my grandmother was a poet,” he said. “When she saw I was doing something creative, she shared her poetry with me and asked me to set it to music one day. I was only 8 years old and the thought of writing my own music never crossed my mind.”
At first, he only wrote for the piano, but later started branching out and wrote for voice and other instruments. At 18, he set his grandmother’s poetry to music.
Gabrielle also expanded on her skills. “In addition to piano, I learned to play the flute, but pretty early on I had a strong desire to become a conductor,” she said. “My dad played in an orchestra and I went to a lot of symphony concerts. Conducting became the ideal in my mind.”
When she was 17, she was introduced to choral music. “I just fell in love with it,” said Gabrielle. “The thing that’s really special about choral singing in particular is the human connection that comes with it.”
Currently, the couple is involved with the choral ensemble Artifice in Washington, D.C.. “This group is specifically designed to work with living composers and create new works of choral music,” said Gabrielle. “I’m one of the choral conductors and Chris is one of the composers. It’s an awesome collaborative ensemble.”
Over the last couple of years, Gabrielle has also travelled to Germany twice to be the assistant conductor at the Hamburg Symphony and Opera. “That was a really amazing experience,” she said.
Gabrielle received a great honor this past July by making the 30 Under 30 list, which celebrates the accomplishments of Canada’s emerging classical musicians. “I’m Canadian, from Montreal, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has this big article that is anticipated by musicians every summer,” she said. “The list contains selected artists from all across the country who get a short profile in the magazine. It was so wonderful to be recognized in my country.”
Chris has also made quite a name for himself. In addition to being awarded multiple commissions and working with a variety of ensembles, including the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, he was one of only six winners of the 2018 Jinji Lake Composition Competition with the Suzhou Orchestra. He was invited to China to hear his piece and the other winning pieces performed live in concert. “It was one whole evening of new music composed by living composers and that was really special to be a part of.”
He has also been a staff arranger for the United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” since 2019. “They have a concert band, an orchestra, a choir, a jazz band and chamber groups, so I get to write for the full gamut of ensembles,” said Chris. “That’s a blast because the band plays in places like the White House, the Pentagon, the United States Capitol, and at Arlington National Cemetery.”
When he was offered the position, one of the criteria was to enlist in the Army! “I’m actually active-duty military and had to go to basic training. It’s a very unusual job that I never imagined myself in while growing up as a musician, but it’s a pretty neat way to serve my country.”
The couple also founded CG Music Academy in Arlington in June of 2020 during the height of COVID. “We wanted to provide a safe way to bring quality music education to kids in the area as well as to provide jobs for out-of-work musicians,” said Chris.
“It’s been rewarding to watch the growth of the academy over the last year and a half,” said Gabrielle. “It’s been mainly word of mouth and personal recommendation which is very flattering. We went from 0 to 70 students in a year.”
“We just had our first in-person recitals this summer and to see all of our virtual students gathering together in person was really neat,” said Chris.
Today, CG Music Academy, which offers piano, voice, and composition lessons, as well as music theory, has a studio in Haymarket too, where the couple settled over a year ago. “So now, when we have in-person events, we have a Haymarket edition and an Arlington edition.”
Editor’s Note: Chris and Gabrielle welcomed son Leon in October. One can only imagine the musical talent that little boy has been born with!