This year’s old top winner in the strings category (violin) of the National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA) is home-schooled and was only coached before the competition by an American violinist via Skype.
Misha Romano, 17, from Dipolog City emerged the grand prize winner among eight finalists after playing Abelardo’s Cavatina and Mendelssohn’s E Minor violin concerto with his sister, Miracle, on the piano.
“I felt relieved and thankful,” he told Manila Standard. “This is my first NAMCYA experience. I did not join any music competitions before.”
Five years ago, the young Romano was heard as a pianist playing Chopin’s Waltz in B Flat and Beethoven’s Sonatina in F Major at UP Diliman’s Balay Kalinaw concert series. His last piano piece before turning to violin was Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major.
His shift from piano to violin was a personal decision, said his sister-pianist Miracle. “Misha actually started learning violin as a minor instrument at age four but wasn’t too serious about it. It was only three years ago when he realized that the violin responded better to his personality.”
Also home-schooled and now in Grade 9, the young Misha was coached via Skype before the competition by American Violinist Noel Martin who is based in Houston, Texas and a member of the Houston Ballet Orchestra including the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra, among others.
Continued his sister: “Misha is the kind of student who doesn’t need to be pushed to practice. He is determined, works really hard without being told, and tries to apply what he learns from lessons through Skype from the American violinist. He was actually competing with students who are enrolled in regular schools and who get personal violin lessons from their teachers. His special qualities? I would say his sensitivity, determination and passion.”
Singled out as a standout in a jury composed of DJ Salonga, Dino Decena and Gian Carlo Gonzales, among others, Misha said everything about the competition, from the semi-finals to the last elimination was tough. “The first movement of Bach Partita No. 3, BWV 1006 is very difficult but highly challenging. It is quite risky playing it in a competition but I like to take risks. On the whole, I really love challenges.”
The young violinist said he practiced some six to seven hours a day before the competition in a violin he purchased from his own savings. It is a Stradivarius copy made in China.
Coming from a musically and artistically inclined family, Misha’s mother Marietta and brother, Mario, also play the piano and his father, Didi, paints.
Misha’s mother, Marietta said she encouraged all her children to take to music because “even if one has retired from one’s profession, the music does not stop. “The benefits we get in listening and playing classic music are evident and scientifically proven. Music stimulates the other side of the brain, which academics cannot do. We tried to expose them in every way we could. When the elder siblings were three and four years old, we did not have a piano then but Miracle was already composing short songs. We made a hanging bottle xylophone in two octaves. And that was when they started playing music using piano books but playing on Tanduay bottles. We did not have to force them. They were instinctively drawn to music.”
Another big surprise in the Romano family is that all the three siblings are home-schooled, with the elder brother and sister finishing college courses by correspondence.
Misha’s mother cites the advantage of homeschooling. “We could be together all the time. They could take their lessons with them when we travel. We are able to monitor their activities. No need to worry about transport and baon allowance, no unnecessary assignments and impractical projects. We could schedule our activities at our own pace.”
Outside of classical music, Misha also loves jazz, the Beatles and Jason Mraz. The last book he read was George Orwell’s 1984. “Now I’m stuck with Russka by Edward Rutherford ever since I prepared for NAMCYA.”
Misha’s violin models? “I like Joshua Bell because of his clear and delicate tones, Maxim Vengerov because of his thick tones, his high energy, and good showmanship. I also like Janine Jansen because of her expressive and intense playing and Sophie Mutter because of her profound and powerful style.”
Now preparing for an audition with the Asian Youth Orchestra, Misha defines his affinity with music thus. “I see music as a lifelong process. It’s about continual and constant learning and improvement. You can’t stop at any point of your life as musician.”
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