About Us

Gabriel Music Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the Gabriel family musical and cultural legacy that dates back to 1850's New Orleans, and to promote music education and performance for local youth.

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Manny Gabriel & Percy Gabriel
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Brothers, Manny & Percy Gabriel (above), sent used instruments from Detroit to New Orleans in the early 1970's to longtime friend and banjo player, Danny Barker (below), to support the Fairview Baptist Church Program. 

Letter from Danny Barker thanking Percy Gabriel for an instrument donation to Fairview Baptist Church Christian Band

Danny Barker

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 Legendary New Orleans trumpeter, Leroy Jones, in Congo Square with Danny Barker's Fairview Band at NOLA Jazz Festival circa 1971

Story of Narcisse Gabriel (First Generation NOLA)

The Gabriel Family’s musical history in the United States began in 1856 when Narcisse Gabriel  immigrated to New Orleans from Hispaniola (Haiti/ Dominican Republic) with his wife Zeta and at least one brother named Paul. Narcisse settled in the city’s Creole territory downriver section from Canal Street where a Catholic family of partly African and Spanish decent could feel at home. Although Narcisse was a trained bass player, he also worked as a bricklayer and laborer to support his family. Music always filled the Gabriel home and when Narcisse died in 1900, his son Martin Joseph continued the music by playing accordion and later switching to cornet. Narcisse nephew Albert “Dude” Gabriel continued the music as a clarinetist.

 

Martin Joseph Gabriel (Second Generation NOLA)

Martin Joseph Gabriel married Julia O'Neal, who came from Mobile, Alabama. Playing the accordion
didn't pay much, so Martin Joseph earned money as a mason and plasterer. When business was slow, he
worked at St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 as a sexton. Around 1903 Martin Joseph Gabriel, also known as Big Manny formed The National Band and worked in the notorious Tenderloin district, bounded by Basin,
Iberville, Robertson, and St. Louis Streets. Some of the most well-known members were guitarist, Johnny St. Cyr, and then violinist Freddie Keppard. The leader himself played the accordion, later switching to the cornet. Big Manny also played his cornet in the Diamond Stone Brass Band. Then he branched out as the leader of the Knights of Peter Claver band at St. Katherine's Church.

 

A handful of third and fourth generation Gabriel’s migrated to Detroit in the 1940s, beginning another
branch of their musical legacy while continuing New Orleans traditions in the Motor City.

*Note the black and white banner image is Martin Joseph in front of Knights of Peter Cuddy Claver Band

Partner Organizations

Hungry For Music, Preservation Hall Foundation, DETxNOLA,

Third Wave Music, Detroit Wayne Music Studio

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