Walk into the band room at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High as the band is practicing, and you might notice that even when the band members are just tuning up, they look to the French horn player for their cues.
“I just enjoy being the head, you know first one in, last one out, being the one to lead the group,” explained Gabriel Barrios, a junior at the school.
Gabriel is the band captain, one of those kids who practically lives in the band room.
More Students Making a Difference
“We always say music speaks where words fail, music is something that even if you don’t speak the same language as someone else or can’t communicate, you play a certain song or melody and you make them feel a certain way and that is really the bond that connects them all,” Gabriel said.
Music is obviously important to Gabriel, but he’s the polar opposite of one-dimensional. He’s a popular guy on campus, always surrounded by friends, and as one of the leaders of the Impact club, he’s always involved in community service projects.
“I love giving back to other people just because I enjoy knowing that they feel happier because of something I did,” Gabriel said.
“He’s a very motivated individual that really wants to make the world a better place,” said band director Kevin Segura, who added that he’d love to have 30 Gabriels in his band.
We noticed that Gabriel plays a horn that looks new, and that’s because it is.
It’s one of $75,000 worth of instruments donated to the school by actor and hip-hop artist Ludacris just before the Super Bowl.
“Thanks to Ludacris, I got a new French horn,” Gabriel said. “It sounds amazing, it resonates! It’s great, it feels amazing to just hold it, play it.”
It’s fitting that a kid who does so much for charity is now on the receiving end of generosity. Gabriel is also a member of his school’s Model UN team and one of it top students, taking a schedule loaded with AP and dual enrollment classes.
His friends call him an inspiration.
“The love that he has for this band is just amazing, he’s always had great leadership qualities and he’s always been the smart kid,” said classmate and bandmate Allison Valle, who has known Gabriel since kindergarten.
“His personality sets him apart from everybody else, he’s just a great person overall,” said bandmate Amaury Sainvil.
Then the “r” word comes up. Role model, they say, and Gabriel is totally embarrassed to hear himself described that way.
“I feel as if it’s an overstatement, I’m just a kid trying to do the most he can for his community and his friends,” Gabriel said.
By that measure, he is already succeeding, but Gabriel has a lot more on his agenda, many more notes to play.