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 best, she soon switched to cello. As a preteen she was accepted into Peabody Preparatory, and began study with National Symphony principal David Hardy continuing through her years at Baltimore School for the Arts and Peabody Conservatory. Rachel participated in prestigious music institutes including Fontainebleau, Bowdoin International Music Festival, Encore School for Strings, and Boston University Tanglewood Institute. She appeared on NPR's From The Top and performed with Yo-Yo Ma at 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. During this time she performed some of the most challenging repertoire for cello including Franco Donatoni Alamari, Nick Didkovsky Caught by the Sky with Wire, Alberto Ginastera Puneña No. 2, and Steve Reich Triple Quartet. Kevin Clark's The Seafarer for acting cellist, commissioned and premiered by Rachel, was made into a film which won festival honors in 2012.
Gawell studied in the postgraduate program at Rotterdam Conservatory. There, she served as principal cellist in the Codarts Symphonic Orchestra and The Ricciotti Ensemble, touring The Netherlands. She also co-founded experimental noise band Anorak with drummer Onno Govaert and pianist Andrea Taeggi, performing across Europe.
Rachel was a founding member of The Ballroom Thieves playing over 150 shows with the band in their first two years, and can be heard on The Devil & The Deep and The Ballroom Thieves. Rachel has also toured and recorded with River City Extension and is featured on their album Deliverance. In 2015 Gawell teamed up with Mike Costaney to launch Baba Sonya which has been featured on prominent Spotify playlists including U.S. Viral Top 50. Rachel is also a member of band Beecher's Fault and can be heard on their recent singles "Hesitating" and "Head On." Skilled at improvisation, composition, and musical collaboration, Gawell works as a session musician and has an active worldwide recording presence on SoundBetter. From 2018-2020 she performed onstage at Broadway's Waitress the Musical playing cello and guitar.
Gawell is a teaching artist through Center for Educational Innovation reaching students in NYC's District 75 special education schools. Rachel encourages her 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.