Music is in his blood
native of Malaysia Gabriel De Leon has music in his genes. Coming from a family of musicians in the Philippines, it was hard not to be influenced by the music.
His father Ronald, who once played on a cruise ship, moved from the Philippines to Penang in 1994, bringing his family and love of music with him.
Ronald then noticed Gabriel’s abilities at a young age, and later both Gabriel and his brother Vincenzo formed a family band they called The De Leon Jazz Experience.
The band has been playing private events in Penang for many years with orchestras such as the Sinfonietta Musical and the Penang Philharmonic Orchestra.
The love of music prompted Gabriel to receive a scholarship to study at the Berklee College of Music and pursue jazz composition and music production.
Gabriel is currently composing music for several music libraries as well as a video game that is expected to be released on Steam.
We recently caught up with a young freelance musician and he talked about his ambition to break into Hollywood, make his mark on the music scene and make Malaysians proud of him.
Gabriel also talked about being inspired by Michelle Yeoh’s recent nomination for Best Actress at the Academy Awards.
Her achievement and success prompted the 23-year-old to take a bold step to push the boundaries.
At what age did you start showing a passion for music?
“Because I was almost a toddler. My dad, himself a musician, was teaching my older brother how to play the piano at age two, and I was barely born when he stuck me in a room to watch.
Probably when I was 14 or 15 years old, I began to realize my interest in writing.
“My dad and music teachers were very supportive of my composing endeavors and allowed us to showcase some original compositions or
arrangements with the school orchestra.
Tell us about your family’s relationship store with music.
“My father is from Las Piñas, a small town near Manila, Philippines. He told me that some of his uncles were musicians and some even worked as far away as Hong Kong to pursue a career as a performing musician.
“He was a member of the Las Piñas boys’ choir, a famous choir that toured the country and the world as they competed for trophies around the world.
In addition, he also learned several wind instruments from one of his uncles. I could be a third or fourth generation Cristobal musician (my father’s maternal family) and I’m very proud of that bloodline.”
Where did you learn about composing, arranging and producing music?
“All three aspects were somewhat self-taught, at least from the beginning. It required independent research and professional feedback from my teachers and parents.
“When I started studying at the world famous Berklee College of Music, I started studying music production out of curiosity. I saw the importance of this knowledge and strove to do my best to master it.
“Most of the core skills I learned came from the curriculum, but in a way I forced myself to practice making music almost every day.
Now that I have both traditional composition skills and modern music programming skills, this has been a fun turn in my career that I never expected, but I’m having a good time.”
Tell us about the genres or musical styles you have composed in the past.
“Basically, I composed mostly orchestral or symphonic music. I also studied chamber music.
“When I went to Berkeley, I also majored in jazz composition, which I had never done before.
“During my two or so years there, I regularly composed jazz tunes and pieces, ranging from fake book-style tunes to big band arrangements and contemporary jazz, from trio line-ups to funk bands. Other styles include EDM, salsa, house and samba.”
What is the hardest thing about writing a song?
“Getting the best melodic content. Being a drummer first and foremost (and not an improvising violinist), this is definitely one of my biggest weaknesses.
“I’m definitely a harmony freak, but I’m still working really hard to get a lot better at writing catchy tops.”
What are your other interests?
“In addition to music, I am fond of football. So much football. It was hard to find time to go out and play, especially with a busy teaching, composing and performing schedule, but I met a group of people (also from Berkeley) who party regularly every weekend, so that’s what kept me most active in Lately.
“I also love to cook and once I settle down in LA I’ll start trying new recipes.”
What instruments do you play?
“The drum kit is my soloist and the violin is my second soloist. Since then, I’ve taken up viola, hand percussion, bass and guitar.”
Who influenced you in music?
“A lot. Tchaikovsky, Ludwig Goransson, my dad, Michael Giacchino. Some great drummers like Dave Weckl, Matt Garstka, Daphnis Prieto.”
Who would you like to collaborate with in Hollywood?
“More creatives from Malaysia. We lack representation and that was so important given Michelle Yeoh’s recent awards for Everything, everywhere, all at once. By seeing people like you who have gone through the same hardships as you, you allow more people to believe that they can survive here.”
What is your end goal?
“Short-term goals are to write music for smaller indie films and TV series, as well as write additional music for larger projects.
“In the long term, I hope to create a music production company that will allow future aspiring composers and producers like me to provide meaningful opportunities, and teach and show them that exploiting young talent is not necessary for someone to break into into the industry. .
“I also work in music libraries so I hope to get more hits on TV shows. First of all, I would like to be able to support all of this as long as
lead a healthy lifestyle, physically and, most importantly, mentally.”