Israeli follows path of music, entrepreneurship to South Bay

When Natan Gammer was on stage at age 9 for his very first performance, he was so frightened that he blanked out and forgot his name. From this early experience he would begin to learn the art of stage presence on his path to becoming a professional musician.

Next month, Gammer and his band, Saphire Dreams, will perform at the To Life Jewish Cultural Street Festival in Palo Alto. They’ll be on the main stage at 11:30 a.m.

Saphire Dreams includes Gammer, his wife, Einat, and their instrument-simulating laptop. On stage they will play a range of world music of “ethnic and electronic style,” he says.

“My band is my laptop,” he jokes of Saphire Dreams. Through simulation of instrumental sounds, real-life vocals and a keyboard, a band was born.

The name originated when his then-2-month-old daughter, Sapphir (which means “sapphire” in Hebrew), started singing along to a B.B. King song on beat and in perfect tune. (This also cemented Gammer’s belief that music is something “intuitive that we inherit.”)

Born in Latvia, Gammer immigrated to Israel at the age of 3. His family, including his grandfather and his father, Boris, a professional jazz musician, was deeply invested in music, he says. Gammer began his musical training when he was 9, and over the years developed the skills to play several instruments — piano, flute, bass and sax. He is also a composer and lyricist.

As a college undergraduate, he studied business as a fallback to music. He attended university in Jerusalem to study economics, later transferring to the College of Management in Rishon LeZion, where he received his bachelor’s degree.

But eventually, his passion won out. “Most of the real musicians don’t know why they’re musicians — they just have to do it,” he says.

He and his wife, a trained opera singer who has an impressive range of three-and-a-half octaves, have formed a production company, Maratris, which provide digital audio and production work for films, high-tech firms and game-makers, among others. Their specialty is producing music that fuses various ethnic styles.

In the past Gammer has worked with an assortment of bands in the music scene, and some of his work has been featured on Israeli television programs.

He came to the United States in 2005, spending seven months in Virginia on business. After returning to Israel to finish five months of “intensive” recording on his compact disc, he moved to the United States with little money in his pocket, staying with a friend in California.

He set out to establish himself as a musician in the Bay Area and is working hard toward his dream. The family lives and works in Redwood City.

Soon Gammer can add “teacher” to his resume.

Gammer will be teaching this year at Kehillah High School in Palo Alto, serving as music coordinator.

Music is powerful, he says. “It just comes from inside of your soul. I feel that music is a language that can break boundaries.”

To hear samples of Gammer’s music, visit