As a teacher, whenever I hear that there will be an exchange student in one of my courses, I greet the news with ambivalence. Most often, the student is a joy to have in class and eager to learn and to share their own culture with me and their classmates. Occasionally, however, the exchange student views their time in America as a sort of gap year and as a vacation from academia. This sort learns little and contributes less. In my thirty-five years in education, I have watched many exchange students pass through the halls. Nearly all of their names, I have forgotten, but one made an indelible impression on me: Gabriel (Gabe) Gonti. I did not have Gabe in class, but I was an assistant coach on the tennis team, where he was one of the star players on one of the best teams in PCHS boys’ tennis history.
Long before I met Gabe at the beginning of tennis season, I knew of him. As literally hundreds of students walked past me in the hall each day, Gabe stood out from the first day of school. He possessed a cool magnetism, a cosmopolitanism, and a level of maturity atypical to most teenagers and difficult not to notice, but he was also humble, self-deprecating, and affable. For example, although his tennis acumen became immediately obvious, I had no idea that he was also a talented musician. So talented, in fact, that when he returned home to Brazil, he began to pursue a career in music, which has resulted in a number of singles, videos, a large following on social media, and several albums. In addition, he recently made his acting debut in a feature film.
My interest in and promotion of Gabe may seem odd to some, but they exist for several reasons. First, as I mentioned at the beginning, he is one of the few exchange students I have encountered who has left a lasting mark on my psyche, and I think it is cool that such a successful artist has a connection to Port Clinton, Ohio. Secondly, as an artist of sorts myself, albeit in a different medium, I know how difficult it can be to get your art out into the world, and all artists appreciate anyone who is willing to vouch for and recommend their work to anyone who will read, watch, or listen to it. Thirdly, Brazil has a soft spot in my heart as one of two foreign countries in which my first novel, So Shelly, was published as Letras de amor y muerte or Letters of Love and Death. (If you ever read this Gabe, a little shout out to your many followers would be greatly appreciated. See “Secondly” above.). Fourthly, I like when good things happen for good people, and Gabe is good people. Finally, and most importantly, his songs are outstanding. Although, I need to have Google translate his lyrics from the Portuguese, I find them poetic, and his melodies sooth my soul in the universal language of music. Like his angelic namesake, Gabe is a messenger who soothes the souls of those who listen.
I highly encourage you to check out Gabe’s music, especially Gonti (Acustico) on your preferred medium. I can’t stop humming “A Gente Se Da Bem.” Also, like and follow him in social media. In my and Gabe’s personal exchange, I know I have been profoundly and profusely blessed much more than he.