The Gabriel Music Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the Gabriel family musical and cultural legacy that stretches over six generations, and to promote music education and performance for local youths.
Our Story Beginnings
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 Santo Domingo 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 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 played the accordion and his nephew Albert “Dude” Gabriel the clarinet.
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
Hungry For Music, Preservation Hall Foundation, DETxNOLA,
Third Wave Music, Detroit Wayne Music Studio