Gabrielle Tee salutes Ben Folds

The breadth of Gabrielle Gabrielle Tee’s musical interests makes her eminently placed for doing justice to Ben Folds’ expansive repertoire.

Gabrielle Tee’s day job as program director and teacher of piano and guitar at Asheville Music School demands versatility and a passion for music.

She’s conversant with pop, jazz and classical music, so it’s not surprising that the music of the iconoclastic and eclectic North Carolinian Ben Folds exerts an attraction for her. Tee will pay tribute to the prolific songwriter/composer with a special show at White Horse Black Mountain on Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 advance, $12 door.

Folds’ musical catalog presents a special challenge, encompassing  a broad swath of styles and forms, from short pop songs to orchestral works. Born in Winston-Salem, Folds absorbed the piano styling of Elton John and Billy Joel at an early age. He learned to play multiple instruments, and worked with several bands before launching the Ben Folds Five in 1995, a indie pop trio that Folds describes as “punk for sissies.” 

The group earned national airplay, but during the Five’s inactive periods, Folds branched out into idiosyncratic solo projects that included song-oriented albums, sound tracks, collaborations with other independent minded artist like Amanda Palmer of Dresden Dolls, and a piano concerto. Impossible to pigeonhole, Folds’ output partakes of rock, power pop, jazz, fusion, classical and cabaret elements.

While her childhood peers were playing dress-up, Tee was playing "piano teacher." She officially launched her career as a teacher at 16 and ran her own independent music studio in Kansas City for five years. Family ties lured her to Asheville, where in 2010 she found her current position at the Asheville Music School. 

Tee's exposure to the vibrant Kansas City jazz scene prompted her to hone her jazz arranging and composition skills. She's since released two solo projects, "Try Me" and "Find My Way."  Continuously broadening her horizons, in 2016 she completed her BFA in Jazz and Contemporary Music at UNC Asheville.