Gabriela Montero (born May 10, 1970, Caracas) is a Venezuelan-American pianist known in particular for her real-time improvisation of complex musical pieces made "on the fly" on themes suggested by her audience and other sources as well as for performances of standard classical repertoire.
Born in Caracas, Venezuela, of an American-born mother and a Venezuelan father, Gabriela Montero was barely a seven-month-old infant when her parents, at the insistence of her maternal grandmother, placed a toy piano in her playpen. It had been bought as a Christmas present for an older cousin. The baby immediately lifted her right index finger and went on to play individual notes, never once banging it with her fist, to the great surprise of her parents and grandmother. It became her favorite toy. She was put to sleep every night by her mother who sang to her the melody of the Venezuelan National Anthem, a tradition in the South American country. One day when she was fifteen months old, her parents noticed she was picking out a familiar tune on the little piano. Three months later, before she could even speak, she had picked out by herself the entire melody of the National Anthem. From then on she would repeat this process with whatever song she heard.
Montero began formal piano lessons at age four with Lyl Tiempo, an Argentinan piano teacher who resided in Caracas, and gave her first public performance at the age of five. Aged eight, she made her concerto debut at the National Theater in Caracas performing the complete Haydn D Major Piano Concerto with the Orquesta Nacional Juvenil de Venezuela (National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela), conducted by Jose Antonio Abreu. This was the original youth orchestra created by Abreu in 1976, which would much later evolve into the orchestra presently known as the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, an integral part of El Sistema, now known worldwide. At the age of nine, she was awarded a scholarship from the Venezuelan government to study in the USA. She studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London from 1990 until 1993, where she studied with Professor Hamish Millnes."