Cellist Rachel Gawell is a bold performer with a gutsy approach to her instrument. Trained classically alongside the world's top-tier string players, she has a passion and natural instinct for challenging musical environments. From rock bands to chamber music ensembles to experimental noise music, Rachel's playing distinguishes itself by pairing a rigorous conservatory skillset with expanding what is possibile on the cello.
Born and raised in Maryland, Rachel began studying violin at age 4. Liking the growl of the low notes, she soon switched to cello. As a preteen she was accepted into Peabody Sinfonietta, and from the first rehearsal of Beethoven's 5th and Mahler Songs of a Wayfarer, she was hooked. She began study with National Symphony principal cellist David Hardy, which continued through her high school years at Baltimore School for the Arts and college at Peabody Conservatory. As a teenager Rachel participated in music institutes including Fontainebleau Conservatoire, Bowdoin International Music Festival, Encore School for Strings, and Boston University Tanglewood Institute. She appeared twice on NPR's From The Top and performed alongside Yo-Yo Ma at the opening concert of the Music Center at Strathmore.
In college Rachel gained a love of modern music through participation in the Henry Mancini Institute, Peabody Camerata, and Bowdoin's Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music. She performed some of the most challenging repertoire for cello including Donatoni Alamari, Didkovsky Caught by the Sky with Wire, Ginastera Puneña No. 2, and Reich Triple Quartet. Kevin Clark's The Seafarer for acting cellist, commissioned and premiered by Rachel, was made into a film which won honors at festivals in 2012.
Gawell studied for a year in the postgraduate program at Rotterdam Conservatory. There, she served as principal cellist in the Codarts Symphonic Orchestra and The Ricciotti Ensemble. touring all over the country. She also co-founded her first band Anorak with drummer Onno Govaert (Cactus Truck) and pianist Andrea Taeggi (Lumisokea), appearing on Dutch radio and performing across Europe.
Rachel was a founding member of The Ballroom Thieves playing over 150 shows with the band in their first two years. She can be heard on their releases The Devil & The Deep and The Ballroom Thieves. Rachel went on to tour and record with River City Extension and is featured on their final LP Deliverance. In 2015 Gawell and Mike Costaney released EP "How to Land a Hot Air Balloon," launching Baba Sonya which has since appeared on Spotify's U.S. Viral Top 50 playlist with song Human-Made Machines. Other bands Rachel has performed and recorded for include Harpeth Rising, The Grownup Noise, Kingsley Flood, Long Is The Walk, Tiides, and Barnaby Bright. She is currently a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist in Beecher's Fault. Skilled at improvisation, memorization, and arranging for strings, she works as a session musician in New York City. From 2018-2020 Rachel performed onstage at Waitress the Musical on Broadway playing both cello and guitar.
Gawell is a teaching artist at The New York Philharmonic's Very Young Composers program and Center for Educational Innovation. A proponent of tried and true instrumental technique, she also encourages students to unlock their artistic expression through writing music and improvising. Rachel is committed to paying forward what she has received from her teachers, and fostering a love of music in the next generation. Rachel lives in Astoria, New York City.