Glenn and Karen Dotson bought a baby grand piano when their children, Gabrielle and Gabriel, were 4 and 5 to engage them in music and instill some discipline.
The piano sat for a year before the parents enrolled their children in piano classes at the East Valley Yamaha Music School in Chandler. Gabrielle, 12, still plays and also performs, although not as much as her brother.
At 13, Gabriel is composing and playing with a band. He has performed in Washington, D.C., San Diego, Toronto and Tokyo, and frequently performs at his church, Canaan Missionary Baptist Church in Mesa.
“We’re amazed when he performs,” Glenn Dotson said. “He looks so relaxed and pulls it off every time.”
Dotson will perform at his first jazz festival 5 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. Saturday on the main stage at the Chandler Jazz Festival. He will be performing with a professional drummer, bass player and clarinetist.
He flies to Los Angeles a couple times a month to work with his band members and record in a professional studio for competitions.
Gabriel is dedicated to the piano. He practices three hours daily and plays everything from contemporary jazz and ragtime composers to classical greats like Gershwin. (His family has a fish named Gershwin.) His favorites are Herbie Hancock, Duke Ellington and Thelonius Monk.
“I just like composing,” said Gabriel, an eighth-grader at Kyrene Pueblo Middle School in Chandler. “And I’ve gotten used to performing in front of people.”
Gabriel was chosen as one of 13 young pianists to play in Tokyo for the 35th International Junior Original Concert in November. He performed “Just Travelin’, ” an original piece. He was chosen from 35,000 entries from 41 countries.
Gabriel’s piano teacher, Heidi Grimes, has worked with him since almost the beginning of his piano career, and said he is a gifted pianist.
“He has a very definite style,” said Grimes, owner of the East Valley Yamaha Music School. “He can take a new concept and assimilate it very quickly.”
Besides music, Gabriel loves baseball, and has played on the Chandler American Little League team. He hopes to make the Corona del Sol High School baseball team, where he has also been accepted into the gifted program and plays in his school’s jazz band.
Gabriel is also a voracious reader, and enjoys adventure and fantasy books. He volunteers at the Tempe Public Library on Saturdays and reads to kids in a Reading Buddies club at the Chandler Sunset library.
If you go
What: Chandler Jazz Festival
When: 4:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Downtown Chandler, main stage at Dr. A.J. Chandler Park, 3 S. Arizona Ave.
Info: (480) 782-2735 or www.chandleraz.gov/jazz.
Have a suggestion?
Everyday People is a weekly look at an East Valley person who stands out because of an interesting aspect of his or her life. To suggest someone for a story, e-mail Hayley Ringle at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (480) 898-6301.