8/25/04 Gabe Lopez never doubted that he would be successful in the music industry. And so far it seems his young career as a songwriter, musician and producer has put him on the path to stardom.

The 1995 Cabrillo High School graduate recently signed with World/s End Management, the team that represents some of the best-known producers in music today. His song, "Sunday Summertime," was featured on NBC this past Sunday as part of a montage of Olympic events. His band plays to loyal fans in hot Los Angles venues like the Roxy and House of Blues. And Lopez is currently enjoying the success of producing and co-writing American Idol top 10 finalist Jim Verraros/s debut album, which was recently picked up by Koch Records.

However, Lopez says, the process was not always easy.

"You hear /no/ a lot," Lopez explains. "You have to hear so many nos before you hear that yes."

Lopez, who grew up in Lompoc, began playing music when he was three. Though his family was not particularly musical, Lopez had a knack for listening to songs on the radio, and then playing them on the piano, and later, the guitar. Lopez says he wrote his first song at age 8.

"It wasn/t very good, and it was only about 10 seconds long," but he continued writing, until eventually, he says, his friends took notice. It was their positive feedback that encouraged him to pursue song-writing along with his other musical talents.

It was also the positive encouragement of a Cabrillo High teacher that Lopez credits for much of his current success. Jane Carlton, head of the Visual and Performing Arts Department, gave Lopez more than just an education in music theory, he says. Carlton, who had her own experiences in the music industry, gave Lopez the tools he would need to deal with the inevitable pressure and rejection that accompanies a music career.

"Jane has been a huge force in my life," Lopez explains. "She made it fun, but she also made it tough." Carlton also taught Lopez that to be successful "takes a lot of perseverance, confidence, and you can/t get sidetracked."

Lopez was active in musical theater and choir while in high school. He also attended UCSB/s Young Vocalist Institute to train in opera, at the suggestion of Carlton. Upon graduation, Lopez decided he needed something a little more "loose," which he found at Santa Barbara City College. "They have a great recording program," he says. Lopez explains how he would often wait outside the studio for people to miss their scheduled time so that he could get a little extra for himself. And it was here that Lopez first got interested in producing.

After a year and a half in Santa Barbara, Lopez made the move to Los Angeles as an intern with Epic Records. There, he learned a lot about the industry; specifically, why some performers make it, and why others don/t. During his internship, Lopez got his first big break when he was asked to be a studio assistant for Jeff Silbar, who co-wrote the Grammy-winning song, "Wind Beneath My Wings."

From there, Lopez developed his own contacts and became more hands-on in the producing process. On a whim, he e-mailed Jim Verraros, an American Idol top 10 finalist, who Lopez describes as a "friend-of-a-friend." Verraros, who was impressed by Lopez/s music, called him back, and they began writing together. In about a year, Lopez had produced Verraros/s debut album, which was picked up by Koch Records. Lopez calls this his biggest accomplishment to date.

Through it all, Lopez continued to play live shows with his band, which currently includes another Cabrillo graduate, Jerry Minnerly. Lopez describes his musical style as a combination of rock and funk, with a contemporary feel.

"Somebody said it is like Stevie Wonder with a rock band," Lopez muses, a bit uncomfortable with the comparison to one of his personal musical idols. The band plays to a mixed audience, with people ages 16 to 60, that often includes his parents, siblings, and high school friends.

But it is not only his loyal fans who are impressed by Lopez. New World Management, the team who represents the producers responsible for the success of Brittany Spears, the B-52s, U2 and the Dave Matthews Band, signed Lopez after listening to only two of his songs during a recent meeting.

Lopez takes it all in stride.

"I don/t have the need to be a huge superstar," he says. "But I do want to be a respected artist." He hopes his album will be picked up by a label soon, and he plans to continue writing songs and producing albums for other musicians.

When asked about advice that he would give to young musicians just starting out, Lopez echoes the words told to him by his teacher, Jane Carlton.

"You have to believe in yourself," he said. "And not give up. And have a little bit of stubbornness and be able to take criticism. And have an open mind.

"Is that cheesy? It was said to me, and it resonated with me, and I never thought it was cheesy."

For more information, visit the Web site at www.gabelopez.com

Staff writer Melissa Chambers can be reached at 736-2313, Ext. 109, or by e-mail at mchambers@pulitzer.net.