Always a popular performer at the Arizona Senior Academy, virtuoso guitarist Gabriel Ayala returns to the Academy stage along with his Trio members, Richard Katz on piano and Danny Brito on percussion, for an 11:30 a.m. concert on Tuesday (Sept. 19).
Ayala’s music incorporates classical guitar styles combined with Native American, tango, flamenco and jazz influences. His original “JazzMenco” compositions represent a fusion of these influences with the improvisational approach of jazz. Tuesday’s program will draw from this repertoire along with Afro-Cuban, Latin, pop and world music covers.
Ayala has performed nationally and internationally with a variety of artists including Willie Nelson, Dr. John, and Tommy Chong. He has won a variety of awards including the Native American Music Award’s “Best Instrumental CD” (2009) and “Artist of the Year” (2011). Among Ayala’s CDs with his own Trio or Quintet are Passion, Fire & Grace (which showcases his JazzMenco compositions), Gabriel Ayala Live at the Mission (recorded at the San Xavier Mission to benefit restoration of the Mission), and Encore! (also recorded live at the Mission).
A member of the Yaqui people of southern Arizona, Ayala is at the forefront of a generation of Native Americans making a career performing classical music. He earned his master’s degree in Music Performance from the University of Arizona in 1997, and has taught at all educational levels from elementary through college.
As part of his advocacy mission, he established the Gabriel Ayala Foundation, which has awarded more than 25 scholarships for higher education, and promotes activities to help youth find a positive addiction in life through music. Ayala works to show children that they can become whatever they dream. His philosophy is “Love your children, Honor your elders, and Respect your women.”
Written by Leslie Nitzberg, Academy Village Volunteer